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Vazquez set for return

Story by Felipe Leon
Photos by Chris Cozzone

Saturday, October 10, marks the much anticipated return of one of the most explosive fighters of the decade, former WBC super bantamweight champion Israel "Magnifico" Vazquez, who will step into the ring after an 18 months hiatus.

The fight night, which is presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with the newly minted Espinoza promotions, is being held at Nokia Live in downtown Los Angeles. Vazquez will face the experienced Angel Priolo in his first bout in the featherweight division after going 25 awe-inspiring rounds against Rafael Marquez in what many consider one of the best, if not the greatest trilogy in boxing history.

"After a year and a half, as a fighter and as a person, I still have not been able to wrap my head around how the trilogy has affected the fans," Vazquez stated as he finished off a day of training on Wednesday. "I gave my best in those fights and I am glad that people appreciate it."

Days after the last chapter of the Vazquez-Marquez story in March of 2008 in which "Magnifico" was awarded a 12-round unanimous decision to retain his WBC title, it was discovered that Vazquez had suffered a career-threatening injury.

"After the third fight with Marquez, he called me and we went to the doctor and he was diagnosed with a detached retina," Frank Espinoza shared.

Espinoza, the 2007 Manager of the Year, not only helms the career of Vazquez, but also a small stable of up-and-coming southern California prospects that include Ronny Rios and Carlos Molina who will also be featured that night.

“He had it worked on and it looked good but then about a week later it re-detached and that is when I began to worry about the future of Israel Vazquez."

It was a long, forced layoff that the anxious Vazquez, at first, could not come to grips with. But, in time, he realized that it was the best circumstance for his body and, in turn, his career.

“The biggest reason for the layoff was the injury,” said Vazquez. “It was the time needed to get back to 100% but also Frank Espinoza, my family and the rest of my team urged me to take a rest.

“Obviously I wanted to continue because fighting is in my blood but in retrospect, the mandatory rest was the best thing for me and I am glad for it.

"We left it in the hands of the doctors and God and now he is healthy and ready to go," Espinoza concurs.

Although Vazquez just now is making his come back to the ring, Rafael Marquez already did, stopping journeyman Jose Mendoza in three rounds back in May, a bout that Vazquez was not going to miss.

"He fought a tough fighter and I think he looked good although I was able to detect some ring rust, for he looked a bit slow," the affable Vazquez says as a chuckle begins to build. "We have to see how I look in this next fight because he might be able to say the same thing about me."

The 31 year-old Vazquez more than likely will need to shake off some rust that only an 18-month break can produce, but Espinoza is confident that Angel Priolo is the right opponent for the task.

"This is a good fight for him to come back at 126 lbs,” says Espinoza. “This is a tune up but we are not taking Angel Priolo lightly, we take one fight at a time.

"We are looking for him to get the rust out, to get some rounds in and even though we are not looking for the KO, if it comes, it comes. This fight is going to tell us where he is after those three grueling fights with Rafael Marquez."

Vazquez of Huntington Park, CA, by way of Mexico City, sees his next scheduled 10 rounds much more dramatically.

"I think this is the most important fight of my career,” he says. “I need to see if the inactivity coupled with my eye problem is going to affect me. If its going to stop me from giving a great fight.

“I am nervous since I don't know what is going to happen. Priolo might not be the toughest opponent I have faced but he has a lot of experience and I am sure that he is going to bring his all to reach the goals that he has set."

Priolo of Barranquilla, Colombia, holds a respectable 30-7, 20 KOs, record but has lost his last six.

"I am looking for Israel to take control of the fight, to show what he has been working on with Rudy Perez in the gym," Espinoza says in regard of what he is looking for in his elite fighter. "Basically a good showing but I am realistic too and we have to keep in mind the inactivity so we have to wait and see."

As for the future, Vazquez is open to the vast opportunities that can be presented to a fighter of his caliber but without losing sight at the task at hand on October 10th.

"My plans are to pass this test with flying colors and go after a second title in as many division," Vazquez says confidently.

"He won't be back this year but early next year and this time against a B or A- type of fighter," Espinoza adds, taking the game plan further. "He can get a title shot at any time because the WBC deemed him an emeritus champion which gives him that right but we are willing to wait, we don't have to rush.

"Vazquez from the beginning has told me that he wants to be a three time world champion in three division, 122, 126 and 130 lbs. He has the heart of a champion and you can never underestimate him so if he puts his mind to it, I know he can do it."

Never the less, the question on every fight fans mind is: Will Vazquez fight Marquez for the fourth time?

"Yes, I think that is the best fight out there for me. Whether there is a title in dispute or not, I want the fourth fight," Vazquez states rather adamantly.

“I have heard that Marquez wants to fight and I know that Israel wants the fight,” adds Espinoza. “Quite frankly, this is the biggest purse fight for both of them so if they are both healthy and willing to do it, who am I to say that they can't fight?"

"Whenever I talk to the fans, they always ask for the fourth fight,” says Vazquez. “Some have said that we shouldn't fight again, but I feel we have the support of the fans.”

But would a fourth fight diminish the greatness of the trilogy? Vazquez thinks otherwise.

"I don't think its going to take away from the trilogy," "Magnifico" says convincingly "The Marquez team talked a lot after the third fight, saying that they got robbed because it was in California. That motivates me. They need to take the loss as a lesson and accept it. I don't want anybody to talk that way about one of my wins so if they want to fight again, I think it needs to be settled."

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