When you talk about exciting, entertaining and brutal modern boxing rivalries, you'll hear a lot about Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward's epic trilogy.
You'll also hear a great deal about Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales (who are covered later in this piece).
But Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez's four fights are right up there with any of them, and they’re arguably even better.
The two men met for the first time in 2007 at the Home Depot Center (now StubHub Center) in Carson, Calif. for Vazquez's WBC Super Bantamweight Championship.
Both fighters threw huge punches in every round, with Vazquez suffering a broken nose from a Marquez uppercut in the opening frame. Despite being felled in the third round and rising on unsteady legs, Marquez won the contest when Vazquez retired on his stool after the seventh, complaining about his broken nose.
If anything, the rematch—contested a short six months later—was even better than the first bout. Both men were badly cut over their eyes in an insane third round—later dubbed Round and Fight of the Year by The Ring Magazine—and Vazquez regained his belt with a stupefying sixth-round knockout.
Their third fight in 2008—once again Fight of the Year as chosen by The Ring Magazine—was the first, and only, of the series to go the full 12 rounds. Once again Vazquez suffered deep, nasty gashes over both of his eyes, but he survived to capture a disputed split decision.
Vazquez was felled in Round 4, but Marquez was docked a point in Round 10 for repeated low blows. In the final seconds of Round 12, referee Pat Russell credited Vazquez with a knockdown when it appeared that only the ropes were holding Marquez on his feet. That would be the decisive factor in the decision.
The fourth, and final, fight between the two warriors took place more than a year after their third bout. That was largely due to the immense punishment that they both suffered, and in particular, Vazquez who had to have three surgeries to repair a damaged retina.
Once again, Marquez opened deep cuts over Vazquez's eyes and secured the final victory of the series via third-round knockout. This was the least competitive and exciting bout of the rivalry.
It's fitting that the series entered with each man securing two victories and two defeats, and while a fifth fight was briefly floated, there's no need. This is already one of the greatest boxing rivalries in history—if not the single best—and both men left it all in the ring.