Pacquiao-Barrera: A Young Lion Against A Great Champion!

14.11.03 - By Janne Romppainen: The circuit of the best fighters of the world fighting one week apart from each other continues this weekend, as the modern-day great featherweight Marco Antonia Barrera faces Manny Pacquiao on Saturday, 15th of November. Even though Barrera doesn't at the moment hold any title belts, he is clearly the premier fighter of the 126lbs division and he is considered by many among the top-5 fighters pound-for-pound in the world. Whether he will make a great statement of his skills in the way Floyd Mayweather did two weeks ago, or face unexpected trouble like Roy Jones last weekend, that remains to be seen. The card which is promoted by the boxing superstar Oscar De La Hoya isn't among the biggest of the year, but the main event should turn out to be an interesting one nevertheless.

The reigning IBF super bantamweight champion Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao is a young, colourful and powerful fighter out of Philippines, Asia. He possesses a solid record of 37 wins, two losses and a draw with 29 knockouts despite being only 24 years of age. He has been legitimately defeated only once early in his career, his other loss came because he wasn't able to make the weight for a flyweight championship bout back in 1999. Pacquiao has defended his recent title belt four times and he holds victories over some notable names including Jorge Julio, Emmanuel Lucero and Nedal Hussein.

Pacquiao is a 5'6" tall forward-pressing fighter who will gladly take a punch to land his own. He comes forwards shooting his left hand out aggressively, often leading with it without jabbing first. This style has brought him some trouble as he has been knocked down a couple of times in his career. He also has had trouble with skilful boxers who have been able to avoid his shots. But usually, as his record shows, he has caught his opponents sooner or later, and the results have been impressive. Along his power he is also known for his tremendous will and never-give-up mentality, which he shows again by accepting this fight that has to be considered very dangerous for him.

Marco Antonio Barrera for his part has already created a career that will eventually take him to the Hall of Fame when he decides to hang up his gloves. It is actually quite surprising that the Mexican fighter still is only 29 years of age. He has been fighting as a professional ever since 1989 and gathered a huge record of 57 wins against only three defeats, with 40 opponents beaten inside the limit. He has battled against the best fighters of his weight classes (Barrera, like Pacquiao, has stepped up all the way from the lowest weight classes and reigned as a super bantamweight champ) for almost a decade, facing and defeating the likes of Prince Naseem Hamed, Erik Morales, Kennedy McKinney and Johnny Tapia among others. The only opponent from his career whom he has not been able to beat was Junior Jones, who stunned Barrera by knocking him down and winning via disqualification back in 1996 and also edging him in the rematch on points. The third loss on Barrera's record came via disputed decision against Erik Morales in 2000 after a classic match-up. That loss was revenged by Barrera last year.

Barrera is an unmerciful but also clever fighter inside the ring. When considering the skills and all-around capabilities of fighters, few men in the sport are more complete than him. He can practically do it all. He doesn't necessarily shine when fighting, but he always gets his job done. He has a very good punching power and a solid chin among with flawless boxing basics, nice speed and movement. He is able to slug effectively, as shown in the gruelling first fight against Morales, as well as to box beautifully behind his jab with which method he schooled Hamed. His body punching is one of the best in the game, especially the left hook to the body, and his right cross has become a dangerous weapon after being often underused in his early career. Also his defence has gotten much better since the Junior Jones fights.

Because of Barrera's versatility, we don't know which strategy he will use, but with Pacquiao there shouldn't be surprises. He is the smaller man and his natural take-no-prisoners style will guarantee that he will take the fight on Barrera, trying to push him back and land his left on Barrera's chin. His power is still untested at the new weight class but if it is as good as we have used to, it should give problems for even as good-chinned fighter as Barrera is.

But to land his punches, Pacquiao will face a great arsenal of weapons that he has to deal with. If Barrera decides to stay back and try to break his foe down, he will use his solid jab and blast his fearful body hooks to Pacquiao's sides. The Pacman has been vulnerable earlier, and now he faces a fighter that most probably is the biggest puncher he has ever seen. Barrera is also very accurate counter-puncher: if Pacquiao forgets his defence, it might prove to be fatal. Pacquiao's resistance will get tested like never before, Barrera has demonstrated that he can go full rounds with full speed if necessary. If Barrera decides to mix it up on the inside, we should see an exciting war. That scenario too seems to favour him, though. His punching power and especially the chin should tip the scales in favour of him.

One possibility, though a slim one, is that Barrera has grown old. He is still under 30 years of age, but he has been in multiple of wars and taken countless of punches. Sooner or later that will show, but concluding from his last performances that doesn't seem to be the case.

Personally I believe Barrera will fight and also control the fight from the outside. Pacquiao's aggressiveness and heart will make it an interesting fight and his occasional left hands will cause Barrera some trouble, but eventually Barrera's jab and body punching will take their toll. I'd pick Barrera to win at about eighth round with Pacquiao dropped and stopped, but his will unbroken. The boxing year has seen already so many surprises that I am not willing to bet for this though.

Barrera is no doubt one of the best fighters in the world right now. After his old rival Erik Morales moved up, his own division seems pretty empty, perhaps that is why he also takes comers from elsewhere too. If he wins this bout, there is not really anywhere else for him to go than up in weight-class. The super featherweight would bring him new challenges, one of them being the awaited rubber-match against Morales. As for Pacquiao, even if he is taking a too big bite out of the cake this time, the doors will remain open. He rules his own division and a loss to a fighter like Barrera wouldn't really hurt that. And for a popular figure as him, there always is a next day. And if he actually would pull it off, how many options would that create for the future?


Article posted on 14.11.2003

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