Boxing

Barrera-Khan: One Man’s Ceiling Another Man’s Floor

Amir KhanBy Andrew Harrison: Marco Antonio Barrera arrived into England looking serene and business like, carrying with him reports from Mexico which suggest the old warhorse is in shape, glowing with health and plotting another big night in the headlines.

As feted songwriter Paul Simon once warbled, ‘one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor’. A poignant lyric when applied to next week’s intriguing cross roads clash between this Mexican fighting legend and a young man once tipped for superstardom, Britain’s Amir Khan.

Heralded as a natty piece of matchmaking on the part of much maligned promoter Frank Warren, the questions surrounding this contest follow thus: how far has Barrera fallen and has Khan come on sufficiently and learned enough since the Breidis Prescott disaster to surpass whichever level this subsequently reveals itself to be?

There are so many imponderables to this fight, a myriad of ‘ifs and buts’ to attempt to decipher. Whatever it eventually transpires Warren has managed to create here, he’s certainly managed to create a buzz. It seems that everyone has a diverging view on what will unfold on Saturday evening in Manchester.

Positives for Khan look to be his advantages in size, speed, youth and relative freshness, the clincher he hopes coming in the guise of Freddie Roach. Roach is the man who, prior to his number one charge Manny Pacquiao’s biggest victory, whispered that he’d seen something in the opponent, Oscar De la Hoya, which convinced him to take the fight. Sage advice worth millions for boxing’s best fighter, Roach’s astute judgement leading many to suspect he may be correct in suggesting the time is right for Khan to strike.

The downside for the young man from Bolton remains his much catalogued punch resistance, or lack of. Starched by Willie Limond, hurt badly by Michael Gomez and blown away by Breidis Prescott just six months ago, one wonders how he hopes to withstand Barrera’s power, which although largely untested at this weight, has to be respected.

The venerable Roach has attempted, when interviewed, to explain away the Prescott result as being due to the impetuousness of youth, errors which Khan will not be permitted to repeat. Perhaps, however the Limond scare is harder to brush under the carpet. It was this night that revealed much to hardened observers of sport’s toughest game, Khan’s limitations as a world class fighter were laid bare when the light punching Scot came within a whisker of knocking the young lad from Bolton unconscious.

More relevant still, Michael Gomez, the wild little super featherweight who based his fighting style on Mexico’s finest, had Khan down and in serious bother before Amir was able to rally and pull victory from the jaws of defeat. Gomez hunted Khan’s body mercilessly that night, a blueprint which I’m sure Barrera has picked up on and will look to put into practice.

Many selecting Khan are even touting the former Olympian to stop the veteran fighter, indeed bookmaker’s veer towards a late rounds stoppage win for Khan. They should perhaps be reminded that Barrera’s last two significant contests lasted the full twelve round course, against none other than Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao.

Marquez and Pacquiao are at present, the two best fighters pound for pound in the sport and neither were able to put Barrera in serious danger of a stoppage defeat. Indeed Barrera had Marquez down with a sizzling overhand right and had Pacquiao in severe distress with a sneaky right on the break. Barrera was, lest we forget, fiercely competitive over the first half of the Pacquiao rematch, using his left hand deftly to abate Manny’s charges. Khan is patently nowhere near this level. Whether Barrera can come remotely close to it again will be interesting to see.

Floors and ceilings then and fluctuating levels, Barrera having to look down, hoping his once elite plane hasn’t dipped too far to enable him to win. Khan meanwhile keeps looking up, no matter what adversity throws his way, hoping that his level will, for one night at least, rise above this once great fighter. Whether both will find themselves adopting similar postures come fight night remains to be seen.

Article posted on 09.03.2009



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