Barrera And Morales – The Hall Of Fame Awaits

erik morales09.10.07 - By Matthew Hurley: With his defeat at the hands of Manny Pacquiao complete Marco Antonio Barrera decided to call it a career. Finishing a Hall of Fame run with a final professional boxing record of 63-6 (42) Barrera’s departure comes on the heels of the retirement of his greatest rival Erik Morales. Morales 48-6 (34), also a first ballot hall of famer, retired after losing a close decision to David Diaz in August. That the two men who stalked each other for nearly a decade and did battle in three epic wars retired in the same year signifies the end of a remarkable era in boxing.

Barrera and Morales were only part of a group of fighters who dominated the sport but all of them, from Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley to Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones to Felix Trinidad and Fernando Vargas, are now long in the tooth and will soon be hanging up the gloves. All of them provided excitement and intrigue but there was something truly special about “The Baby Faced Assassin” and “El Terrible."

Both were tremendously gifted and both possessed a fighting spirit that inspired their Mexican countrymen. And when they fought each other in their epic first bout in February of 2000 they crossed over and became mainstream boxing stars. That first fight, won by Morales, made them pay per view attractions. They would engage in thrilling contests with other fighters, Barrera with Kennedy McKinney and Prince Naseem Hamed; Morales with Daniel Zaragoza and Manny Pacquiao, but it was when they stepped into the ring together that the sparks truly blazed. It also helped that the man from Mexico City, Barrera, and the man from Tijuana, Morales, couldn’t stand each other.

Their first bout was the fight of the year for 2000. It was a close, brutal contest that many felt Barrera edged but Morales took by split decision. Their second bout in 2002 was more tactical but no less intense. Again, it was close and this time many felt Morales edged it but Barrera got the unanimous decision. Their third bout equaled their first in terms of ferocity and was named fight of the year for 2004. Despite finishing strong Morales lost a majority decision and, perhaps, bragging rights as to who the better fighter was.

Morales watched with glee when Manny Pacquiao dismantled Barrera in eleven one-sided rounds in 2003. He perhaps took Barrera a little lightly in their rubber match one year later. His pride stung he saw only one opportunity to one-up Barrera. Morales signed on immediately after that loss to fight the dreaded Filipino whirlwind and provided, arguably, his last great performance in winning a clear cut unanimous decision. That was basically all Morales had left. He fought Pacquiao twice more and threw everything he had at the rising star but lost by knockout both times. He dropped a lazy decision to cutie Zahir Raheem and then gave it one last shot against David Diaz, nearly pulling it off, before losing a close, and some would argue, disputed decision.

After losing so badly to Pacquiao many thought Barrera was on the downside of his career but he rebounded, as he always seemed to do, and beat Morales in that third bout. He then struggled down the remaining path of his career but managed put on a boxing clinic against Rocky Juarez in their rematch and fight evenly for most of his bout with Juan Manuel Marquez before dropping a decision. He would lose again to Pacquiao and announce his retirement.

There is more than a twinge of sadness among boxing fans to see two such staples of the sport retire at virtually the same time, but it seems appropriate. Their names are forever linked together. They provided endless thrills for their fans and seemed to have left the sport with their senses in tact and money in the bank. All that awaits them is the Hall of Fame, and wouldn’t you know it, should they remain true to their retirement, they will walk into Canastota on the same day; snarling at each other, no doubt.

Article posted on 10.10.2007

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