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www.fightwireimages.comMarquez far from finished
Rafael Marquez returns to action this Saturday with a new agenda

Story & photos by Chris Cozzone

If you expected former champ Rafael Marquez to go quietly into the night, you were wrong.

If you thought the man who battled Israel Vazquez heart and soul throughout one of the greatest trilogies in boxing history, was finished, think again.

This Saturday, Marquez (37-5, 33 KOs) will stage his long-awaited return to the ring. Going up against Jose Francisco Mendoza (21-2-2, 17 KOs), of Bogota, Colombia, Marquez will end the longest layoff of his career—one year, two months, and 22 days, in case you were counting—and step back into the championship picture in a 12-round WBC super bantamweight title eliminator.

But there’s a lot more to Marquez’s agenda than just another world title.

“I want to be remembered as an all-time great,” Marquez said last weekend from training camp in Mexico City.

That, says Marquez, means more than winning another belt—and may mean stepping into the ring, once again, with Israel Vazquez, with whom Marquez has unfinished business.“We have to give the people what they want,” says Marquez. “We need to get things right.”

Getting “things right” means a fourth war with Vazquez—if not more.

“We all need a fourth fight,” he says. “Definitely. Or even a fifth or sixth fight.”

The wars with Vazquez began in March 2007, with Marquez winning by TKO. A loss to Vazquez by TKO followed, in August, and, in March 2008, the trilogy concluded with a split decision win for Vazquez.

Though his career has been all about Vazquez since 2007, Marquez says it has not made him stale.

“It’s been very good for me,” says Marquez. “It’s helped me be a better fighter, and reach a higher. We’ve both pushed ourselves to excellence, in regard to preparation and our guts.”

Fight critics have surmised that the trilogy had taken a toll on both fighters, for neither one have fought since.

Vazquez, just recently, announced that he has been cleared to train again, following a detached retina suffered in 2008.

www.fightwireimages.comMarquez says the three fights did not have a lasting effect on him, physically.

“Significantly, the fights did not effect me,” he says. “I don’t think so. Preparation for those fights were for true warriors. If I hadn’t trained so hard for those fights, then maybe, a lot of damage would have occurred on my body.

“That’s why all boxes must be prepared 110 percent.”

Marquez’s body might not have needed an overhauling, but the former bantam champ admits needing a little rest.

“My body deserved a long rest after those wars with Vazquez,” admits Marquez. “Rest has been great for my body.”

On Saturday night, the rest is over.

“Mendoza is a hard-hitting Colombian,” says Marquez of his opponent. “In this sport, everyone is tough.”

Marquez and Mendoza will fight the 12-round co-main event. The main event of the “Lethal Combination” card, promoted by Promociones del Pueblo, features another former bantam champ and former Vazquez rival, Jhonny Gonzalez (40-6, 34 KOs), taking on Toshiaki Nishioka (33-4-3, 20 KOs), for the Japanese’s WBC 122-pound belt.

Should, both, Gonzalez and Marquez win Saturday night, they may be facing each other next.

“I’ll be watching that fight closely,” says Marquez. “Both are excellent fighters. Fighting Jhonny or even Nishioka are, obviously, in my plans.

“You have to beat the best to be the best. I have to accomplish my goal to be a world champion again.”

Whether it’s Gonzalez, Nishioka or Vazquez again, Marquez says he hasn’t decided yet whether to stay at 122 or move up to featherweight.

“I’ll go where the big money is,” he says.

“I’ll go where the big fights are.”

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