Barrera: Lights Out For a Legend?
By Zubair Ali: Mexico is a most proud nation with boxers seemingly born to fight. Marco Antonio Barrera is just one of many legendary fighters to have emerged from the country such as Salvador Sanchez, Ruben Olivares, Ricardo Lopez and of course the amazing Julio Cesar Chavez. As an amateur, Barrera amassed an impressive record of 104-4 and was a 5 time Mexican national champion. Barrera made his professional debut at the age of 15 when knocking out David Felix in 2 rounds (the first of a 43 fight win streak).
At the age of 21, Barrera won his first world title defeating the WBO super bantamweight champion Daniel Jimenez by unanimous decision. By this time, many boxing journalists were calling Barrera “Mexico’s next Julio Cesar Chavez”. Barrera then tasted defeat for the first time as a professional losing to Junior Jones. Barrera was disqualified after his corner entered the ring.
There was an immediate rematch, Jones this time winning by unanimous decision. After the fight Barrera announced his retirement from boxing but was back in action after only 10 months against Angel Rosario, knocking him out in 5 rounds. Barrera was also involved in an epic trilogy with another Mexican great Erik Morales. It is considered by many to be the greatest trilogy in history.
Barrera has also twice fought, and suffered defeat at the hands of pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao. In the first fight, Barrera’s corner threw in the towel in the 11th round. Barrera, who started out as a super flyweight, has won world titles at super bantamweight, featherweight and super featherweight. He is one of only 4 Mexican born fighters to have won world titles in 3 different weight divisions.
He is also responsible for ending the career of the flashy, hard hitting Brit ‘prince’ Naseem Hamed. On March 17 2007, Barrera fought the current undisputed lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and lost a unanimous decision. He then fought Pacquiao for a second time in October 2007, and was easily outpointed.
After the fight Barrera announced his retirement. On 16th January 2009, it was announced that Marco Antonio Barrera would face Britain’s Olympic silver medallist Amir Khan. Many were questioning the wisdom of Khan’s promoter Frank Warrens match making fearing it may be too soon for Khan to take on a fighter of Barrera’s stature. Many questions surrounded the fight such as how would Barrera fair at lightweight?
How would he cope with Khan’s speed of hand and foot, youth and size? And perhaps the most important question was how much did Barrera have left? The fight itself was somewhat anti-climactic. A clash of heads in the opening round caused a horrific cut on Barrera’s head.
The fight was allowed to continue, with blood constantly pouring into the eye of Barrera, impairing his vision and causing him a significant disadvantage. Khan took full advantage of his opponent’s handicap, throwing sharp combinations at range.
The fight was eventually stopped in the fifth round, and went to the judge’s scorecards with all in favour of Khan, who was awarded a technical decision victory. After suffering what was his third loss in five fights, Marco Antonio Barrera was incensed (rightly so) that the fight wasn’t stopped in the first round due to the severity of his cut.
“The blood was in my eye and I just couldn’t see with it”. Barrera was also adamant that had the cut not occurred, he would have been declared the victor. Despite the defeat, the 73 fight veteran did not suggest he was ready to retire just yet.
“I am just going to talk to my family,” he said. “I felt good tonight. It was just because of the cut that I lost. I’ll discuss it with my family, discuss it with Don King Promotions and we’ll take it from there. But I am going to take a little break now.”
At 35, Barrera has established himself as a true modern day legend winning 7 world titles in three different weight divisions. He has been a professional for almost 20 years and has achieved in the sport what so many others can only dream of.
So why continue? Barrera was hoping that a win over Khan would put him in line for a world title fight. Ranked #1 by the WBO prior to the fight, Barrera was hoping to become the first Mexican born fighter to win world titles in four different weight divisions.
Maybe the thought of making history is what still drives Barrera. Or maybe he genuinely believes he can still compete with the world’s best. Another thing to bear in mind is Barrera isn’t a full blown lightweight. We also don’t know what would have happened against Khan had the cut not hampered his chances of victory.
Taking all these factors into account, I still believe Barrera should retire. His legacy is cemented, he still has his pride and despite his loss, his reputation remains intact