It was at the expense of a fighter who had already achieved greatness that Manny Pacquiao first began to do the same. Back in November of 2003, Pacquiao, still somewhat unknown on the word stage despite having won world titles in two weight classes, challenged Mexican star Marco Antonio Barrera (in a non-title fight) – what followed was a brutal and one-sided fight.
Pacquiao, with his blend of speed, power and accuracy, stopped Barrera – who was an amazing 57-3 at the time and was coming off recent big wins over the likes of Erik Morales and Naseem Hamed – in the 11th-round when Marco’s corner threw in the towel on what had fast become a hopeless situation. Pac-Man was the new lower-weight star and all these years later, Barrera regrets having taken the fight.
Speaking with ESPN Deportes recently, Barrera, who retired with a fine 67-7(44) record in 2011, said he had not even heard of Pacquiao when the fight was offered to him, and that he could have fought countryman Oscar Larios instead:
“[Pacquiao] was an unknown. I remember the situation very well, because I as asked if I wanted to fight “Chololo” Larios, who is from Guadalajara, or Manny Pacquiao,” Barrera said. “But “Chololo” is my friend, my brother – how could I fight him? I regret having made that decision because he gave me the beating of my life. He had very impressive speed. I remember, I was just recovering from a punch, I turned and then another four punches came down.”
Barrera, who fought Pacquiao in a 2007 rematch (“Pacquiao did not feel as strong as he was in the first fight”) would probably have beaten Larios, even though Larios was a fine fighter himself. If Barrera had not given Pacquiao his big chance, who knows how different boxing history would be today. Pacquiao would have had his chance to burst onto the big stage at some stage of his career – but imagine if his big chance had come against Juan Manuel Marquez (who held him to a controversial draw in his next fight after beating Barrera) or Erik Morales, who defeated Pac-Man in early 2005.
It just goes to show how getting the right fights at the right time can prove crucial to a boxer’s career. How long would Barrera have avoided a loss had he not ran into Pacquiao that night at the Alamodome in San Antonio? For quite a long time, considering how Barrera did not lose again after the Pacquiao beating for well over three years. How much did the Pac-Man hammering take out of the Mexican great?