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Larry Merchant Looks Back

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By Chris Robinson

In February of 2000, Marco Antonio Barrera was considered a huge underdog heading into his fight against bitter rival Erik Morales. There once was a time when Barrera was considered the heir apparent to Julio Cesar Chavez because of his debilitating attack and fierce demeanor but a pair of heartbreaking losses to Brooklyn’s Junior Jones in 1996 and 1997 left his career up in the air.

It was common knowledge that Morales and Barrera had serious disdain towards one another well before their fight and there was a definite conflict of personalities involved, as Barrera grew up well in Guadalajara while Morales’ childhood saw him live in near poverty in Tijuana. Despite being only 25 years of age as he approached the Morales showdown, Barrera’s career was on the line and it was this night that he chose to produce one of his finest outings as a professional.

For twelve pulsating rounds the two exchanged viscous bombs from left and right inside of the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. When the fight had closed it was Morales who had kept his unbeaten record in tact by way of controversial split decision but it was Barrera who had won people over.

Calling the action from ringside, HBO analyst Larry Merchant vividly recalls the magnitude of that fight.

“It was as intense as a fire fight as you can see,” Merchant recalled. “There were no knockdowns, just because both guys refused to be knocked down. But it was one fire after another. There would be fire, then they would take a step back, and then there would be more fire and if someone was hurt his answer would be to fire back. It was an amazing fight.

“I guess the reason it happened in the first place was that Barrera had lost those fights to Jones and Morales had taken the mantel, at that time, of being the logical successor to Chavez. So it was a drama in the sense that Barrera was no longer considered the next great Mexican star and suddenly he came back to fight this amazing fight, which he literally won by losing. I remember thinking it was a bad decision but that both of them came out with their statures raised,” Larry continued.

Barrera’s career was suddenly revived and he reeled of three consecutive victories before eyeing another huge clash in April of 2001, this time against cocky yet often-devastating Prince Naseem Hamed. The outspoken English fighter had raised eyebrows for his flashy style and crippling power and he seemed to be polar opposite to the subdued Barrera in terms of personality.

Barrera was an underdog this time as well but once again he showed tremendous poise in taking Hamed out of his element and roughing him up as he pulled out a commanding twelve-round decision. Hamed’s awkward attack and stout power were deemed ineffective by Barrera, who fought with both calculation and steadfast determination, even showing a bit of bite late in the fight as he shoved Hamed face-first into one of the ring corners.

Merchant feels that the victory wasn’t just about Barrera as a fighter; it dug deeper than that.

“Well, that night was received as redemption for the great Mexican featherweight,” Merchant said. “That this flamboyant Brit was…

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Comment by Jun — April 29, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

I remember watching this fight on HBO, (a qoute from the great James “lights out” Toney, “Home Boys Only”) I was a huge fan of Marco Barrera at that time.

Being a fellow filipino. I wanted Manny to win, but I didn’t give him a chance on this fight. I figured just like everyone else at that time. Marco would be too slick for this young fighter AKA Pac-Man. Boy!!! I was wrong. It was like a gift from the boxing gods.

Growing up as a young boy, I use to watch Navarette, Espinosa, and a young Gerry Penalosa. They were all great champs from the Philippines, but nothing like this young guy Pac-Man has become.

I still watch this fight from time to time. It still gives me goose bumps and here we are 8 years removed from that night in San Antonio. Keep up the good work Manny…

See you in May 7th, MGM Grand Arena!!!

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