Miguel Vazquez Barely Retains IBF Title, Remains in Lightweight Unification Mix

Zachary AlapiCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2012

LAS VEGAS - MARCH 12:  Miguel Vazquez poses after defeating Leonardo Zappavigna in the IBF Lightweight Championship bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 12, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Miguel Vazquez made the fourth successful defense of his IBF lightweight title with a razor-thin split decision over Marvin Quintero on Saturday at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.

Bleacher Report boxing columnist Briggs Seekins was covering the fight and recording his impressions via liveblog, and his score of 116-112 in favor of Quintero (25-4, 21 KO) was entirely plausible. The fight was undoubtedly close, and Seekins also noted that a colleague sitting next to him had the exact same score in favor of Vazquez (32-3, 13 KO).

Scoring Vazquez-Quintero has much to do with what one values in a close fight. Quintero certainly pressed forward with aggression, and he threw hard, straight punches. Vazquez utilized the entire geography of the massive ring to stick and move (perhaps too much, at times), and his long reach and awkward punching angles allowed him to score consistently.

For those who felt Vazquez got on his bicycle and retreated for most of the fight, others will counter that Quintero didn’t do an effective enough job of cutting off the ring. This allowed both men to have their moments in what amounted to a somewhat underwhelming fight.

Regardless, even if Vazquez retained his title by the slimmest of margins, he has kept his name in the lightweight-unification mix, a process that could commence as early as the first quarter of 2013.

RingTV.com’s Bill Emes caught up with Vazquez after the fight, and the IBF champion’s next move appears to be a title defense against prospect Mercito Gesta on December 8 as part of the undercard for Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez’s fourth fight.

After a somewhat lackluster performance against Quintero, a win against Gesta (26-0-1, 14 KO) could offer Vazquez a certain measure of redemption in front of a broad audience on one of the year’s most significant boxing cards.

Emes also asked Vazquez about the upcoming fight between WBC champion Antonio DeMarco and flashy former super-featherweight belt-holder Adrien Broner, which is a bout that Vazquez will be watching with keen interest, as the winner likely looms as a future opponent.

Naturally, Vazquez wants the fight, but one has to wonder how much his stock has dropped after his uneven performance against Quintero, a fighter who had been stopped in all three of his previous losses. Obviously Vazquez isn’t a thudding puncher, but he never seemed to have Quintero in serious trouble and lacked a certain degree of explosiveness in his shots.

Vazquez is a skilled boxer, but at this point, his best chance to secure a high-profile main-event spot is if Broner (24-0, 20 KO) beats DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KO). Should that occur, it might be a case of “be careful what you wish for” regarding Vazquez's unifying titles against Broner.

Against Quintero, many of Vazquez’s punches looped or were swung in wider arcs, which is something that Broner—who is much faster and more powerful than Quintero—will exploit to devastating effect.

Further complicating Vazquez’s desire for lightweight supremacy is WBO belt-holder Ricky Burns. Coming off of an impressive stoppage of Kevin Mitchell, Burns (35-2, 10 KO), according to Scott Christ of BadLeftHook.com, is set to fight Broner in early 2013, assuming he successfully defends his title against Liam Walsh on December 15.

Burns will be a massive favorite against Walsh (13-0, 10 KO), a former Commonwealth super-featherweight titlist and WBO European lightweight champion. Despite having won these minor titles, Walsh is still a 13-fight novice, especially when compared to Burns’ status as a two-division champion.

Assuming Broner defeats DeMarco, Vazquez could be the odd man out—at least for now. When Burns was the WBO 130-pound champion, it appeared that a fight against Broner, who was his mandatory challenger, was scheduled and agreed to. But then Burns moved up to lightweight and vacated the belt that Broner would go on to capture.

Broner-Burns is somewhat overdue, and it would make for a more compelling fight than Broner-Vazquez. That said, if Vazquez can keep winning—perhaps more impressively than he did against Quintero—a fight against the winner of Broner-Burns would then become the best fight to be made at 135 pounds.

Of course, DeMarco should not be discounted when he defends his title against Broner. Still, there seems to be something predestined about Broner’s rise to boxing’s pinnacle. Sure, Broner has the skill and charisma to be one of the sport’s driving forces, but there is also a strong sense of foresight with regards to plotting Broner’s seemingly inevitable path to mega-fights.

If Vazquez has kept his name in the lightweight-unification mix, many will view his status as a way to validate Broner’s ascent of boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings. With bigger names like Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, Brandon Rios and Amir Khan, amongst others, campaigning at junior welterweight, Broner’s stint at lightweight figures to be brief.

Fortunately, this could lead to a series of lightweight-unification fights involving Broner, Burns and Vazquez. Ideally, Broner and his fans will be looking for a quick unification of lightweight belts as a means to legitimize future pay-per-view mega-fights at 140 pounds.

Still, Burns, Vazquez and, of course, DeMarco should not be counted out. All are in the mix for big fights, and they will be looking at their upcoming slates as a means to propel themselves to broader stardom.