Marco Antonio Barrera: Leave Us with the Memories
If recent reports are to be believed, Mexican boxer Marco Antonio Barrera is considering a comeback.
Nicknamed "The Baby Faced Assassin," Barrera, who made his professional debut at the age of 15, is a seven-time world champion in three different weight classes and a living legend in the sport of boxing.
His first meeting with fellow Mexican Erik Morales in 2000 produced the Ring Magazine "Fight of the Year." It was a classic display of Mexican machismo, with both men trading punches for 12 gruelling rounds. Most ringside observers felt that a knockdown in the final round should have been sufficient for Barrera to win the decision. The judges disagreed and awarded the fight to Morales by way of a split decision.
It was the Ring Magazine "Fight of the Year" and remains a strong contender for "Fight of the Century." A year later Barrera faced highly-rated Featherweight Naseem Hamed. Barrera was an underdog against the undefeated Englishman with a penchant for showmanship. Hamed had little to showboat about in this fight, as Barrera's no-nonsense approach handed him the first and last loss of his fledgling career.
The second fight in what would become the Barrera vs Morales trilogy was a more reserved affair with Barrera winning a hotly disputed decision. Wins against Johnny Tapia and Kevin Kelley followed before a fight with a relatively unknown Filipino prospect called Manny Pacquiao.
Barerra was on the wrong end of a one-sided beating that night and his corner mercifully put a premature end to proceedings by throwing in the towel in the seventh round. That was in 2003 when a lot of people felt that with the possibility of a rematch with Morales rapidly receding, Barrera was done.
"The Baby Faced Assassin" proved them wrong by knocking out Pauli Ayala to set up the much anticipated third installment of the trilogy with Morales in 2004. This back and forth battle didn't disappoint, and was in the minds of many even better than the first fight between the two.
The first half of the fight belonged to Barrera but Morales finished strongly, getting the better of some savage exchanges. Just like the first meeting it would be named Ring Magazine's "Fight of the Year" but unlike the first meeting this time Barrera was the winner in a razor-close decision.
In hindsight this probably represented the peak of Barrera's boxing career. In 2006 he beat Rocky Juarez a couple of times in less than spectacular style before losing a close and controversial decision to Juan Manuel Marquez.
Expectations were high when a rematch with Pacquiao was announced but it was a hugely disappointing performance from Barrera, who lost a lopsided decision.
Barrera beat Sammy Ventura in China in 2008 before returning to fight in Mexico for the first time in almost a decade, defeating Freudis Rojas via disqualification after Rojas deliberately headbutted him.
Despite being badly cut Barrera travelled to the UK to fight Amir Khan less than two months later. Again Barrera clashed heads with his opponent (see picture) although this time there was no suggestion of intent. The fight was allowed to go four rounds, long enough for Khan, who was ahead on the score cards, to win a decision.
It was hard on Barrera, who would have undoubtedly made it into more of a contest had he not lost a lot of visibility after being badly cut by the clash of heads in the very first round.
The reality is that Barrera the boxer has been on a downward trajectory since the career-defining 2004 victory over Morales. Although still only 35 Barrera has received more punishment in his 65 fights than most world class boxers will take in their entire careers.
The Baby Faced Assassin is no longer quite so baby faced but like so many ageing boxers he is unable to resist the lure of the limelight. Barrera is currently being seduced by the prospect of becoming the first Mexican to win a world title at four different weights.
No one would begrudge Barrera a successful swansong, but even with the benefit of some judicious matchmaking he will still find a Lightweight world title extremely difficult to come by.
In a perfect world Barrera would secure the elusive fourth world title in spectacular style before riding off into the sunset but I fear reality may not treat this seasoned warrior quite so kindly. If any man has earned the right to retire it is Marco Antonio Barrera, I only wish he would exercise that right.
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