VAZQUEZ-MARQUEZ III: SOMEHOW, BETTER YET

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ISRAEL VAZQUEZ AND RAFAEL MARQUEZ: BOXING AT ITS BEST

FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

You can be sure a ring rivalry is special when the intensity of the competition overshadows the significance of the results.

… When the names of the fighters are bonded by what they gave us and what they took from each other.

… When possession of the pairing belongs not to the fans or the fighters, but to history.

Robinson-LaMotta. Pep-Saddler. Ali-Frazier. Barrera-Morales. Gatti-Ward.

Vazquez-Marquez.

Distinguished and accomplished lighter-weight champions, Vazquez and Marquez fought four times from March 2007 to May 2010. The first three bouts were world title fights, and with the fourth bout anticlimactic and lacking in what made the matchup unforgettable, Vazquez-Marquez is remembered mostly as a trilogy.

Vazquez-Marquez shared characteristics with the two lasting trilogies that preceded it. Like Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward (2002-2003), the three fights were jammed into a single year and were fought in one division (junior welterweight).

And like Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales (2000-2004), Vazquez-Marquez pitted Mexican rivals and world titlists against each other.

What separated Vazquez-Marquez were the changes in momentum, not only from fight to fight, but from round to round, and the utter unpredictability of each outcome.

“As the Vazquez-Marquez fights played out,” said SHOWTIME analyst Al Bernstein, who worked all four fights, “it became obvious to me that it was actually an honor to be ringside chronicling these events. With that honor came responsibility, the kind that can weigh heavily on your psyche.

“These two amazing boxers were doing extraordinary things in the ring. We wanted to do justice to that by not skewing the story in any way, and certainly not by overshadowing it.

“We all knew the first fight would be great, and it more than lived up to expectations. The second fight was exciting, and when fight three came, I didn’t think they could top numbers one and two, but they did just that. It’s one of the top five fights I’ve ever announced or seen. The ebb and flow was tremendous, and you almost felt it didn’t matter who ended up getting the decision because they both had been so great.

“I can’t admire two boxers more than these two men.”

VAZQUEZ-MARQUEZ III: SOMEHOW, BETTER YET

March 1, 2008, Carson, Calif.

It is among the most vivid memories in my 37 years covering fights: A few minutes after 12 of the best and most brutal rounds I had ever witnessed, I walked into the dressing room of Rafael Marquez, whose rubber match with Israel Vazquez had been decided by the 12th and final round, and by a single point on the cards.

I found it odd that Marquez sat in an otherwise empty room. His wounds of war were plain to see, but instead focusing on the bruises and welts and blood, my eyes locked with his.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen as heartbroken a fighter.

“Gran campeon,” I said to him.

“Si,” he responded, “Pero no … “

Motioning with both hands, Marquez held his thumbs and index fingers about an inch apart and ran them from his belly button to his sides.

He was indicating that he had no championship belt, which still belonged to his rival. That was all that was important to him at the moment. And at the moment, it was destroying him.

What I should’ve said to him was, “It doesn’t matter. This fight won’t be remembered by who won and who lost. The really great fights never are.”

But I sensed he didn’t want to hear it, and I left him alone.

Time has spoken for me.

Three fights in 363 days, and before the 12th and final round of the third fight, which was the best of all, the 8,104 fans at the Home Depot Center stood and screamed.

The bout remained in the balance, but most weren’t cheering in support of one fighter or the other. They were simply saying thank you.

In the first three minutes, and in every subsequent round, Vazquez and Marquez challenged each other, move for move and man to man, as they had done in every second of the previous fights. Given what they had been through, there could be no other way.

“I knew from the first second of the first round that I was involved in something special,” said veteran official Pat Russell, who refereed the bout. (Russell worked as a judge for Vazquez-Marquez I.)

Vazquez moved forward and Marquez, seeking distance, pumped his left hand. There wasn’t a breakthrough until the fourth, when Marquez struck with a pair of rights. Vazquez, who had dropped Marquez in both of the previous fights, crashed to the canvas, and to no one’s surprise, that made him fight back only harder. Before the bell, he staggered Marquez, instantly creating a candidate for Round of the Year.

As the middle rounds mounted, every punch became more significant. Every jab was purposeful; every right cross was perfectly straight; and every hook had knockdown potential.

“They were setting each other up,” Russell said. “So much was technical and subtle.”

It was boxing at its highest level and a rubber match to remember. But how would it end?

Vazquez suffered cuts over both eyes, and Marquez’s vision was impaired by swelling under his left eye. Down the stretch, the difference was largely Vazquez’s ability to score with his right, which to that point had not been a primary weapon.

“We kept telling him, ‘Throw your jab, move right, and throw the overhand right. He can’t see it,'” Vazquez’s manager, Frank Espinoza, told “The Ring’s” Ivan Goldman.

In the 10th, Marquez lost a point for punching low, and the momentum clearly belonged to Vazquez. But it was still a very close fight, and SHOWTIME analyst Al Bernstein, amazed by what he was watching, spoke for much of the audience when he said, “I almost don’t care how they score this fight.”

As if it were necessary (as if it were possible!), Vazquez and Marquez punctuated their trilogy by giving us one final round of drama.

“When the bell [for round 12] rang,” recalled Russell, “Vazquez went to work, pounding Marquez in a corner and going after him with a ferocity I hadn’t seen before.”

Marquez was stunned only 12 seconds into the round. He dutifully sponged punches until, with six seconds remaining, Vazquez drove him into a neutral corner with a huge right. Stepping backward and about to fall, Marquez reached with his right hand and grabbed the top rope for support. Russell correctly ruled a knockdown, and by the time his mandatory count was over, so was the fight.

As it turned out, the point deduction in the 10th, and Vazquez’s 10-8 round in the 12th, determined the outcome: Vazquez by split decision.

Again they had combined to produce the Fight of the Year.

Two years later, Vazquez and Marquez would fight for a fourth time, with the latter winning on cuts via third-round TKO. It didn’t really matter–except for the fact that Marquez’s victory evened the score at two fights apiece.

Fair, no? After all, after four fights, 28 rounds, four knockdowns, a career’s worth of cuts and bruises, and thousands of punches, there was virtually nothing to choose between them.

With the Vazquez-Marquez rivalry, the results fade with time, but the memories will forever endure.

VAZQUEZ-MARQUEZ II: BLOOD, GUTS, AND LEFT HOOKS

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ISRAEL VAZQUEZ AND RAFAEL MARQUEZ: BOXING AT ITS BEST

FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

You can be sure a ring rivalry is special when the intensity of the competition overshadows the significance of the results.

… When the names of the fighters are bonded by what they gave us and what they took from each other.

… When possession of the pairing belongs not to the fans or the fighters, but to history.

Robinson-LaMotta. Pep-Saddler. Ali-Frazier. Barrera-Morales. Gatti-Ward.

Vazquez-Marquez.

Distinguished and accomplished lighter-weight champions, Vazquez and Marquez fought four times from March 2007 to May 2010. The first three bouts were world title fights, and with the fourth bout anticlimactic and lacking in what made the matchup unforgettable, Vazquez-Marquez is remembered mostly as a trilogy.

Vazquez-Marquez shared characteristics with the two lasting trilogies that preceded it. Like Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward (2002-2003), the three fights were jammed into a single year and were fought in one division (junior welterweight).

And like Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales (2000-2004), Vazquez-Marquez pitted Mexican rivals and world titlists against each other.

What separated Vazquez-Marquez were the changes in momentum, not only from fight to fight, but from round to round, and the utter unpredictability of each outcome.

“As the Vazquez-Marquez fights played out,” said SHOWTIME analyst Al Bernstein, who worked all four fights, “it became obvious to me that it was actually an honor to be ringside chronicling these events. With that honor came responsibility, the kind that can weigh heavily on your psyche.

“These two amazing boxers were doing extraordinary things in the ring. We wanted to do justice to that by not skewing the story in any way, and certainly not by overshadowing it.

“We all knew the first fight would be great, and it more than lived up to expectations. The second fight was exciting, and when fight three came, I didn’t think they could top numbers one and two, but they did just that. It’s one of the top five fights I’ve ever announced or seen. The ebb and flow was tremendous, and you almost felt it didn’t matter who ended up getting the decision because they both had been so great.

“I can’t admire two boxers more than these two men.”

VAZQUEZ-MARQUEZ II: BLOOD, GUTS, AND LEFT HOOKS

August 4, 2007, Hidalgo, Texas

The first and second Vazquez-Marquez fights were bridged by five months. That seems an eternity when you consider that Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta dueled twice in three weeks, but it’s a relatively quick turnaround by the standards of the modern era.

Especially when you consider how brutal and demanding the first fight had been.

This time Marquez was the defending WBC super bantamweight titlist. That prompted Vazquez to make a change; he switched trainers, from Freddie Roach to Mexico’s Rudy Perez.

Among the points of contention: Roach felt Vazquez needed more recovery time before trading for a second time with Marquez.

In hindsight, it wasn’t going to matter whether Vazquez and Marquez fought yesterday, today, or tomorrow, or whether they clashed once, twice, or 200 times. In each and every contest, they were going to test each other to the very core.

Such was the nature of the rivalry: two proud and humble champions who both needed each other and needed to beat each other.

Fought before a disappointingly sparse crowd at the Dodge Arena, the second bout had the same I-hit-you, you-hit-me rhythm of the initial meeting. Vazquez was particularly animated in the first round, fully aware of his need to crowd Marquez. And once again, Marquez opened with brilliant use of his left hand, firing up and down, to head and body.

Marquez took round one, and Vazquez carried the second, stunning Marquez with a hook just before the bell.

In the third, ferocious fighting and first-class boxing combined to create the Round of the Year.

“Non-stop! Incredible action! Unbelievable! No letup whatsoever!” is how an impassioned SHOWTIME blow-by-blow announcer Steve Albert called it.

Thirty-five seconds in, Vazquez staggered Marquez when he was quicker to the trigger with a hook. Marquez stumbled backward and held, and then instantly–and characteristically–punched right back.

The round ended with an extended toe-to-toe exchange, and while Vazquez had an edge, it came with a price: a long cut over his right eye.

“The third round might have been the best in a world championship fight since the 10th round of Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales I,” wrote Don Stewart in “The Ring.”

The fourth was close, with Marquez marked as well, showing a small cut and discoloration under his right eye. More significantly, there had been a subtle shift: The legs of Marquez were a bit unsteady.

In the fifth, Vazquez displayed one more wound: a cut over the left eye. Blood poured out, and it was clear that barring a 180-degree turn, a TKO victory for Marquez was not only likely, but perhaps imminent.

Surprise, surprise: It didn’t quite turn out that way.

Only 20 seconds into the sixth, Vazquez released a textbook combination–hook to the body, right uppercut, hook to the chin. Boom! Marquez crashed and jumped right back up, pacing as referee Guadalupe Garcia issued the mandatory count. The champion seemed okay, but that changed after Vazquez followed with 50 punches.

If Vazquez didn’t end it here, there probably wasn’t going to be a second chance.

When Marquez involuntarily took two backward steps along the ropes and Vazquez jumped in with a right, the referee called a halt that some believed was premature.

The end had come almost as suddenly as in the first fight.

“After the first knockdown, [Marquez] was in bad shape,” Garcia told SHOWTIME reporter Jim Gray. “It was very dangerous to keep the fight going.”

“I was still throwing punches,” Marquez complained. “I don’t know why he stopped the fight.”

Soaked in his own blood, Vazquez had regained the title. The focus, however, was already on something else.

“We want him to give us the third fight,” Marquez said.

“I want the third fight,” echoed Vazquez.

Indeed, a third fight there would be.

It was fate. And it turned out to be fantastic.

 

 

VAZQUEZ-MARQUEZ I: ONE NEVER NOSE

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ISRAEL VAZQUEZ AND RAFAEL MARQUEZ: BOXING AT ITS BEST

FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

You can be sure a ring rivalry is special when the intensity of the competition overshadows the significance of the results.

… When the names of the fighters are bonded by what they gave us and what they took from each other.

… When possession of the pairing belongs not to the fans or the fighters, but to history.

Robinson-LaMotta. Pep-Saddler. Ali-Frazier. Barrera-Morales. Gatti-Ward.

Vazquez-Marquez.

Distinguished and accomplished lighter-weight champions, Vazquez and Marquez fought four times from March 2007 to May 2010. The first three bouts were world title fights, and with the fourth bout anticlimactic and lacking in what made the matchup unforgettable, Vazquez-Marquez is remembered mostly as a trilogy.

Vazquez-Marquez shared characteristics with the two lasting trilogies that preceded it. Like Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward (2002-2003), the three fights were jammed into a single year and were fought in one division (junior welterweight).

And like Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales (2000-2004), Vazquez-Marquez pitted Mexican rivals and world titlists against each other.

What separated Vazquez-Marquez were the changes in momentum, not only from fight to fight, but from round to round, and the utter unpredictability of each outcome.

“As the Vazquez-Marquez fights played out,” said SHOWTIME analyst Al Bernstein, who worked all four fights, “it became obvious to me that it was actually an honor to be ringside chronicling these events. With that honor came responsibility, the kind that can weigh heavily on your psyche.

“These two amazing boxers were doing extraordinary things in the ring. We wanted to do justice to that by not skewing the story in any way, and certainly not by overshadowing it.

“We all knew the first fight would be great, and it more than lived up to expectations. The second fight was exciting, and when fight three came, I didn’t think they could top numbers one and two, but they did just that. It’s one of the top five fights I’ve ever announced or seen. The ebb and flow was tremendous, and you almost felt it didn’t matter who ended up getting the decision because they both had been so great.

“I can’t admire two boxers more than these two men.”

VAZQUEZ-MARQUEZ I: ONE NEVER NOSE

March 3, 2007, Carson, Calif.

If Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez had fought only once …

If their battle in March 2007, contested for the WBC super bantamweight title, had been all they gave us …

If they were remembered separately, instead of together …

If all of that, we would’ve been more than satisfied. After all, Vazquez-Marquez I was a unanimous selection as Fight of the Year.

On that glorious night, the fans at the Home Depot Center (now the StubHub Center) numbered 5,155. In hindsight, or due to lack of foresight, the attendance should’ve been 51,550.

Fortunately, the bout was broadcast on SHOWTIME, so a much wider audience witnessed the very best boxing can be.

For those who were paying strict attention, there were signs that Vazquez-Marquez I was going to be memorable. The fighters had suffered three losses apiece, but were unbeaten in world title bouts; Vazquez was making the third defense of his second title reign at 122 pounds, and Marquez, ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10, was rising from bantamweight, where he had registered seven defenses of the IBF title.

Their trainers, Freddie Roach with Vazquez, Nacho Beristain with Marquez, were the best in the game.

The fighters were older, but not too old. (Vazquez was 29, Marquez 31.)

And at the risk of being redundant, both were Mexican warriors. Combine it all and we were guaranteed an explosion of artistic brutality.

“[These were] two guys who on their own were great fighters, but once you put them in the ring together, they made magic,” said boxing announcer Bernardo Osuna, then with Telefutura.

A great fight must include at least one plot twist, and Vazquez-Marquez I had a handful, the most significant coming in the first round. Marquez immediately established his jab as his key weapon, and at some point in the opening three minutes, Vazquez’s nose was broken. For those watching, the only hint was a trickle of blood from his nostril.

Sharp and focused, Marquez would never fight better. Given his sense of timing and mastery of technique, it was difficult to believe that to this point, and despite wins over outstanding champions like Mark Johnson and Tim Austin, he had been overshadowed by his older brother, multi-division titlist Juan Manuel Marquez.

(Two weeks later, in yet another battle of Mexican champions, Juan Manuel would outpoint the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera.)

With five seconds remaining in the first round, Marquez struck with a straight right, causing Vazquez to dip and almost fall.

Marquez also carried the second, but those anticipating a blowout were jarred back to their senses midway through the third. Seconds after Marquez scored with a flush three-punch combination, Vazquez answered with a hook. Boom! Marquez found himself on the floor, and at the bell, he returned to his corner shaking his head in disappointment.

If Vazquez was buoyed by the shift in momentum, it didn’t show. Marquez took the fourth, and when the challenger landed a jab to the tip of the nose in the fifth, Vazquez turned his back and walked toward the ropes.

What happened next epitomized the rivalry: Believing Vazquez was either badly hurt or even conceding defeat, Marquez moved in–and was met by a nine-punch barrage. Most of Vazquez’s punches missed, but his message was on target: Maybe I can’t breathe … Maybe I’m in excruciating pain … But I’m not done yet.

Sure enough, Vazquez took the sixth, starting quickly and maneuvering close enough to pound the body. His success, however, failed to fool Roach, who before the start of the seventh asked Vazquez if he wanted the fight stopped.

The answer he got: No.

But after the seventh–another strong round for Vazquez–the rest period played out very differently.

Vazquez: “I can’t breathe.”

Roach: “You sure?”

Vazquez: “Yes, I’m sure.”

Roach: “You want me to stop the fight?”

Vazquez: “I can’t breathe.”

Roach: “Want me to stop the fight?”

Vazquez: “Yes.”

At first, such an ending was virtually incomprehensible. But within minutes, Vazquez’s nose was hideously swollen and grotesquely misshapen.

Just like that, Marquez, who was ahead on the cards, was the winner. But for fans and fighters alike, there was an instant sense that Vazquez’s surrender was more of a start than a finish.

“Would you like a rematch?” SHOWTIME reporter Jim Gray asked.

“I would like one as quickly as possible,” Vazquez responded.

Vazquez-Marquez had been too good not to do it again. Too good, in fact, not to do it again soon.

 

Vasquez Dominates Lartey

Pittsburgh Fight Night-0017 - Sammy Vasquez - Emmanuel Lartey

Sammy Vasquez put on a show for his hometown fans in Pittsburgh, winning a near-shutout 10-round unanimous decision (99-91 twice, 100-90) over Emmanuel Lartey in the main event of ShoBox: The New Generation on Friday, Feb. 20 from CONSUL Energy Center. 

Vasquez (18-0, 13 KOs) entered the bout seeking his 10th consecutive knockout against an opponent who hadn’t been knocked down before and had been in the ring with two U.S. Olympians.  The military veteran wasn’t able to finish Lartey (17-3, 8 KOs, 1 NC), but that was just about the only thing that didn’t go his way in a thoroughly impressive performance in which he landed 50 percent of his power shots. 

Vasquez started slow and was able to pick his shots in the early rounds, but he accelerated the tempo in the second half of the fight as Lartey appeared to slow down.  The hometown favorite did his best work with Lartey against the ropes and landed at will in the middle rounds.  Lartey seemed like he was ready to quit on his stool after the eighth, but he continued and Vasquez slowed his production in the final two rounds and cruised to the victory.

“I thought he was going down a few times but he hung in there,” Vasquez said.  “The jab was going well, but I made a couple of mistakes because I started feeling comfortable.  I knew he was hurt after the eighth and my corner told me to step off the gas a little bit and pick my punches more instead of just storming him.

“I thought he was going to quit a couple times on his stool.  He’s a tough guy – no one could knock him out. I couldn’t either.”

Lartey dropped his third fight to a top prospect after decision losses to Errol Spence Jr. and Felix Diaz.

“Sammy is a tough fighter,” Lartey said.  “He’s really strong. I did my best, but he was just too good.”

After the fight, ShoBox announcer Steve Farhood broke down Vasquez’s impressive game plan.

“It was a very controlled and intelligent performance by Vasquez, accelerating as the rounds progressed, dominating every round and controlling the action whether boxing, attacking or pinning Lartey against the ropes,” Farhood said.  “He showed a lot and he deserves the reputation he has as being one of the top young American welterweights.”

Pittsburgh Fight Night-0007 - Craig Baker

Craig Baker knocked out Humberto Savigne in a stunning upset, finishing the heralded former Cuban amateur with a highlight-reel TKO at 1:58 of the second round.

Savigne (12-2, 9 KOs, 1 NC), who had a huge size advantage and was the heavily favored fighter, landed a series of right hands in the first and looked like he could make it a quick night against the undefeated-yet-untested Baker.  But the Texan fought like an opponent who had nothing to lose against Savigne, an experienced veteran with over 400 amateur bouts under his belt.

Baker (16-0, 12 KOs) landed a few decent shots in the first and came out blazing in the second, throwing a high volume of punches with Savigne against the ropes.  Fighting in a small ring, Savigne had nowhere to go and continually ate shots on a suspect chin before falling face forward to the canvas.  Savigne got up, but he fell into the ropes and was clearly out on his feet, forcing the referee to halt the contest at 1:58.

“I hurt him in the first round and I could tell that his chin was weak, I could tell that I could finish him,” Baker said.  “In the second, I just smelled blood and I knew I had to go to work, I had to finish him.

 “Nobody gave me a chance going in, but I was the undefeated fighter and he wasn’t.  I worked too hard to come here and lose.  I just have to keep working.  You haven’t seen the last of me – this is a life changing moment.”

 The 36-year-old Savigne was clearly shocked after the fight.

 “He was the better man tonight,” Savigne said.  “I wasn’t expecting him to be as tough as he was.  I made a huge mistake in taking him lightly. This is something that I’ll learn from.  Now I’ll go back to the drawing board.  I’ll go back to the gym – I’ll keep working hard and I’ll be back.

 “In the first round, Baker hit me on the side of the ear and I lost equilibrium. I was completely dizzy. He hurt me with that shot.  He was the better man tonight.”

Pittsburgh Fight Night-0011 - Claudio Marrero - Orlando Rizo

Claudio Marrero won a dominating unanimous decision victory over Orlando Rizo in the opening bout of the telecast.  Marrero (18-1, 13 KOs) controlled the bout from the outset, knocking Rizo (18-6, 11 KOs) down four times en route to a convincing victory scored 78-71, 78-70, 80-68. 

Marrero was the more aggressive and effective fighter, landing 43 percent of power punches and 39 percent of his total punches.

“I was trying to set up the big shots so I could end the night,” Marrero said.  “It got away from me at times, but it was a good preparation for taking that step for a shot at a world title.

“I’m not disappointed I didn’t knock him out.  I underestimated his tenacity to get back up and stay in the fight and I need to work on my discipline so that doesn’t happen again.  I feel that I’m ready for a shot at a title whenever I get an opportunity.”

LIVE BOXING RETURNS TO CBS TELEVISION NETWORK WITH MULTI-YEAR VENTURE FROM CBS & SHOWTIME

CBS Sports and SHOWTIME Sports® have announced a multi-year joint venture to present live boxing on the CBS Television Network—the first of up to eight live events in 2015 will premiere on Saturday, April 4 at 3 p.m. ET on CBS.  Premier Boxing Champions on CBS will air in conjunction with marquee SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING events as part of a partnership that will cross-promote the live programs across multiple platforms. 

The first six weeks to begin this venture will feature two of the biggest names in the sport—Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Adonis Stevenson—and bookend this year’s most anticipated boxing event, the SHOWTIME PPV® presentation of the undisputed pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Bryan Vera

Each live boxing event on CBS and SHOWTIME will be supported with short- and long-form shoulder programming that will air across multiple platforms including CBS, SHOWTIME and CBS Sports Network.  In addition, a significant marketing budget will be dedicated to promoting each of the live CBS broadcasts and each major SHOWTIME telecast with targeted advertising campaigns.

 “The Premier Boxing Champions series on CBS will help usher in a new era in the storied history of boxing,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President & General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports.  “With the support of our parent company, we are uniquely positioned for a three-tiered approach that includes live boxing broadcasts on America’s No. 1 network, the cable reach of CBS Sports Network and, of course, the premium television leader in boxing, SHOWTIME.  The benefit of elevating the sport across these platforms for all involved, including SHOWTIME, is immeasurable.”

The schedule of upcoming live boxing events on CBS and SHOWTIME is as follows:

SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

On Saturday, March 28, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will present a doubleheader featuring a featherweight showdown between WBC champion Jhonny Gonzalez and top contender Gary Russell Jr., and a matchup of 154-pound contenders Jermell Charlo and Vanes Martirosyan.  The live SHOWTIME telecast will preview the following week’s April 4 CBS debut of Premier Boxing Champions. 

JGo

PREMIERE BOXING CHAMPIONS ON CBS

The CBS premiere on Saturday, April 4 (3 p.m. ET/Noon PT) will feature light heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson defending his WBC title against former super middleweight champ Sakio Bika.  In the co-feature, undefeated light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev will face veteran former world champ Gabriel Campillo.  The CBS broadcast, with its national reach of more than 110 million households, will offer a broad platform to promote a major SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING event just two weeks later. 

Adonis

SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

On Saturday, April 18, SHOWTIME presents the network debut of former world champion and Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., as he takes on light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara. 

PREMIERE BOXING CHAMPIONS ON CBS

On Saturday, May 9 Premier Boxing Champions returns to CBS for the second installment (4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT).  This broadcast will pit undefeated Omar Figueroa, who recently vacated his Lightweight World Championship to move up in weight to 140 pounds, against former champion Ricky Burns. 

 Omar Figueroa vs Daniel Estrada

The April 18 SHOWTIME telecast and the May 9 CBS broadcast will support—and be supported by—the May 2 SHOWTIME PPV event featuring the undefeated, world’s No. 1 ranked fighter, Floyd Mayweather.

Additional confirmed dates for Premier Boxing Champions on CBS include live broadcasts in June, July and September, with up to three remaining events on the 2015 calendar yet to be announced. The live boxing broadcasts on CBS, other than the aforementioned premiere, will be broadcast live at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT. 

The Premier Boxing Champions series was created for television by Haymon Sports. It is the first consistent series presentation of live boxing on CBS in 15 years.  The network aired a one-off live event featuring current WBC Super Bantamweight Champion Leo Santa Cruz in 2012.  Prior to that, the last live boxing on the network was in 1997 when then-middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins knocked out Glen Johnson.

 Live boxing was a staple on the network in the 1980s, consistently featuring future Hall of Famers Sugar Ray Leonard, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and others. Boxing’s history on CBS dates back to 1948 when the Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts premiered featuring legendary blow-by-blow commentator Russ Hodges.

Sammy Vasquez: Pittsburgh-Tough

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

Pittsburgh’s not a blue-collar town, it’s the blue-collar town, so it’s no surprise that since the Immaculate Reception in 1972, the holiest of local heroes have worn black and gold.

But there was a time the heroes were colored black and blue.

Before Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, and Mean Joe Greene transformed Pittsburgh from the Steel City into Title Town, the sporting scene was largely defined by boxing. Charley Burley was so good, he couldn’t get as much as a sniff of a title fight. Fritzie Zivic had a flattened nose that suggested the heavy bag occasionally punched back. And Billy Conn broke his hand not on the head of Joe Louis, but rather on that of his father-in-law.

They were tough guys who were easy to root for.

Judging by the substantial crowds he’s beginning to draw in Pittsburgh, unbeaten welterweight contender Sammy Vasquez could be the city’s next Chosen One. In today’s boxing world, it’s unusual for a young American boxer to secure a serious hometown following. For a while, Fernando Guerrero did so in Salisbury, Md. Mike Alvarado draws well in Denver—but that may be over now. And within the last year or so, Terence Crawford, now a world titlist, has won over all of Omaha.

There are precious few other examples.

Vasquez seems to have what’s needed. His back-story is rich: Serving in the National Guard, he survived a pair of tours in Iraq. And his boxing story is deep: As an amateur, he came close to making the 2012 Olympic team, and having turned pro one week before his 26th birthday, he’s been perfect, impressively defeating opposition that has recently included a couple of legitimate tests.

The 28-year-old Vasquez, 17-0, will fight for the second time on ShoBox: The New Generation when he faces Ghana’s Emmanuel Lartey at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Last April, Vasquez’s SHOWTIME debut was a brief one; he kayoed the previously unbeaten Juan Rodriguez Jr. in less than a round. This time, the southpaw, who can box with patience or attack with passion, will likely have to work a bit longer; fellow lefty Lartey’s never been stopped, having gone the distance with, among others, former Olympians Felix Diaz and Errol Spence.

What convinced me that Vasquez was made of the right stuff was an otherwise insignificant fight. In the first round of his February 2014 bout vs. Jamar Freeman, Vasquez stepped on the foot of the referee and twisted his ankle. No prob: He got taped up, resumed the fight, and scored a fifth-round stoppage as if nothing had happened.

The report card of a prospect cannot be fully filled out until he or she overcomes some type of adversity. Vasquez has already done so.

When you watch Vasquez, check out not only his technical skills and punching power, but also the buzz he creates. It’s too early to tell whether he’s championship-caliber. His star appeal, however, is already unmistakable.

On the televised portion of the card, Miami-based Cuban light heavyweight Humberto Savigne, who’s coming off consecutive second-round kayos of Jeff Lacy and Maxell Taylor, will meet unbeaten Texan Craig Baker.

It’s not really accurate to label Savigne a prospect because he’s 36 years old. But he’s had only 13 pro bouts. He’s worth a watch for a singular reason: He wields a destructive right hand.

Savigne has been calling out WBC 175-pound titlist Adonis Stevenson. To be considered for such a bout, he’ll need to look sensational against Baker.

Also televised will be a featherweight bout between a pair of southpaws, Dominican southpaw Claudio Marrero, 15-1, and Nicaraguan veteran Orlando Rizo, 18-5.

Marrero’s only loss came against top-10 contender Jesus Cuellar. Given his strong amateur pedigree and considerable talent, he’s a good bet to rebound strongly enough to eventually secure a shot at a world title.

Fighting The Good Fight

03

FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

Unbeaten welterweight prospect Sammy Vasquez, who will headline the Feb. 20 ShoBox: The New Generation telecast, served two tours in Iraq while a member of the National Guard.

Vasquez’s first tour began in 2005, and his second tour started in 2008.

Contrasting his 17 professional boxing battles in the USA to his 18 months in the Middle East, Vasquez said, “Here, maybe we get a black eye or a busted nose, but at the end of the night, we’re both going home.”

Vasquez is hardly alone; there have been countless fighters who have served in the military, whether before, during, or after their ring careers.

Here are some familiar names:

Barney Ross: Three-division world champ joined Marines during World War II. Insisted on serving overseas and proved heroic in battle at Guadalcanal, for which he was awarded Silver Star and honored by FDR.

Nigel Benn: Before winning world titles at middleweight and super middle, served in the British Army. He was stationed in Northern Ireland for 18 months during “The Troubles” conflict.

Georges Carpentier: This war hero was pilot in World War I. Awarded Croix de Guerre, ultimate military honor bestowed in France. Returned to the ring, and in 1921, he challenged heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey in boxing’s first million-dollar gate.

Leon Spinks: Dropped out of school in 10th grade and joined the Marines shortly after. He learned to box while enlisted. Won Olympic gold in 1976, and in his eighth pro bout, he dethroned heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali in ’78.

Max Schmeling: Germany’s former world heavyweight champ was drafted and served in an elite paratrooper division of Lutwaffe during World War II. Returned to ring after war.

Ken Norton: Future heavyweight titlist served in Marines from 1963 to ’67. He was a blue-chip prospect in several sports. Began boxing while enlisted.

Saoul Mamby: Future junior welter titlist served in Vietnam for, according to Mamby, “One year, six days, and four hours.” When asked if he saw combat, Mamby said, “Yeah, enough.”

Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano (all heavyweight champions): Tunney fought in France during World War I; after being labeled draft dodger World War I, Dempsey enlisted during World War II and became commander in Coast Guard Reserves … Reigning titlist Louis served as sergeant through four years of service during World War II, boxing 96 exhibitions and donating entire purses of two title defenses … Marciano was stationed in Swansea, Wales, during World War II, where he ferried supplies to Normandy. The Rock began boxing career while in Army.