There is absolutely no doubting the greatness of Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera. The now retired former champ, who ruled at more than one weight and for a considerable amount of time, scored some terrific wins during his 67-7(44) pro career – his list of ‘victims’ reading like a who’s who of fine modern day lower weight boxers.
Best known, almost certainly, for his three epic wars with countryman Erik Morales, “The Baby Faced Assassin” – who won this rivalry 2-1 – also registered wins over: Naseem Hamed, Kennedy McKinney, Johnny Tapia, Kevin Kelley, Rocky Juarez, Mzonke Fana and others. But which of these fantastic wins means the most to Marco himself? Today, at age 45, Barrera, who retired in 2011, has SOME career to look back on.
This writer was afforded the honour of speaking with Barrera a while back, and the warrior/clever boxer who was born in Mexico City said there is one big win that tops all his other victories.
“The Naseem [Hamed] fight, for me, this was my best fight,” Barrera said. ” Because at the time, he was considered to be the best in the world, and also the best fighter and hardest puncher in the world [pound-for-pound]. He was unbeaten when we met in Las Vegas, and he was very hard and difficult to fight, and he had beaten everyone – seven world champions had fallen to him at that point. For that fight, we had to change our skills.”
As fans know, Barrera swapped his slugger/warrior approach against Hamed and went back to smart boxing basics. Fans will also recall how this “change of skills” worked an absolute treat against the shocked and unprepared “Prince.”
“Yes I won the fight, but it was a very difficult fight,” the ever modest Barrera says upon looking back to the fight of 18 years ago. “He was the best puncher of the day and I had to be smart all the way. He was so fast and powerful. He was difficult because of his tricks and his hands [held low] style. He was the best and I was surprised he finished [his boxing career] when he did. He could have done more in the ring. I met him when he was in his prime.”
To this day, fans think more about this potential return fight more than any other recent (ish) fight than perhaps a Lennox Lewis/Vitali Klitschko II. What might have happened had Barrera and Hamed met again, as Hamed’s rematch clause contract would have afforded the Sheffield man had he wanted a second go at Marco?
“I told him, Naseem, come on, we must fight again. But he told me he had finished with boxing,” Barrera says. “I told him I would come to the UK, but he told me no, that he was finished with boxing. I was surprised, I expected to fight him again, maybe even like with [me and] Morales, we could have fought and fought. But that was my best win [over Hamed], to this day.”
Interesting stuff indeed, and it goes to show how revered Hamed once was, and how great he might have become. There is, though, no doubting Barrera’s greatness and the sheer impact he made on the sport he chose as his living.