11.28.04 – By Frank Lotierzo – GlovedFist@Juno.com – Thank you Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales. Thank you for three outstanding/great fights, in a trilogy that will go down as one of boxing’s best and most fierce rivalries. Three times in the last four years Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera have fought for the championship of each other. And in all three fights a world title was at stake, not to mention bragging rights as the best Mexican fighter of the era. Which in the case of these two future hall-of-famers, the WBC title may have been just icing on the cake.
In the Barrera-Morales trilogy, boxing history acquired 36 rounds of wealth over the course of three fights. All three fights were fought at the next higher weight, and in each fight both fighters fought every minute of every round. It’s fights and match ups like Barrera-Morales why boxing has a core group of fans that will always exist. And it’s also why, myself included, boxing fans will endure a lousy under card and sometimes a terrible main event. Because you never know when you’ll get the next Toney-Jirov or Gatti-Ward I. Although in fairness to Barrera and Morales, we knew based off the body of work they’ve put together during their careers and against each other that they would deliver a spectacular fight.
In their rubber match this past weekend, Marco Antonio Barrera won a 12-round majority decision over rival Erik Morales to win the WBC super-featherweight title, the third of his career. Barrera, who was more than a 1-2 underdog heading into the fight is now up 2-1 over Morales, and will most likely be judged in the eyes of history as the better fighter. In the biggest and most important fight of his life, Barrera showed exactly what kind of champion and fighter he is.
It was exactly one year ago that Barrera was stopped by Manny Pacquiao. In the fight with Pacquiao, Barrera was knocked down twice and took a beating before referee Laurence Cole stopped the fight at 2:56 of the eleventh round. Despite stopping Paulie Ayala seven months later, Barrera was thought to be damaged goods. The common line repeated by most boxing observers over the last week was, Barrera took to severe of a beating from Pacquiao to win another war with Morales. On top of that, Barrera was moving up to fight Morales at 130, a weight he never fought at before, and thought to be a significant advantage favoring Morales.
It seemed that in the months leading up to their third fight, Barrera and Morales were going in different directions. The 30 year old Barrera fought twice in the last year and was 1-1, enduring what looked like career ending punishment in the loss. Opposed to the 28 year old Morales, who had defeated current or former world champions in each of his last three fights. He was also a three time WBC champion at 122, 126, and 130, who had fought in 19 championship bouts. Morales was an obscene 18-1 in those title fights. His only loss was a controversial decision to Barrera in their second and last fight in June of 2002.
In the week leading up to their rubber match, Morales often spoke of how good he felt at 130. In separate conference calls this week, Morales said “this is the weight I should have been fighting a long time ago. I’m a more complete fighter at 130; this is a good weight for me. I’m going to be stronger. I’m going to be able to do more things that I couldn’t do because of the weight.” In a later conference call from his training camp in Big Bear, Barrera said his greater heart will offset whatever advantage Morales may have at 130. When Barrera’s remark about heart got back to Morales, he took one final shot at his bitter rival and said, “You’ve seen my fights. I never have ended up with my face on the ground as he has.” Obviously referring to Barrera being stopped by Manny Pacquiano last November.
It was Barrera who turned out to be right. Fighting for the first time at 130, a weight supposedly favoring Morales, it was Barrera who seemed to be faster and more complete. Throughout the better part of the first six rounds Barrera seemed to have an answer for whatever Morales threw at him. Barrera was either beating Morales to the punch or working to his body. Even when Morales opened up offensively, many times Barrera answered with a flurry to finish the exchange.
In the seventh round Morales started fighting on the outside and using his reach to set up his right hand. The way he should have fought from the onset. However, the fact that Barrera was tiring and waiting for his second wind that he knew was out there, made it easier for Morales to lead. And just when it appeared that Morales was on the verge of possibly seizing the fight, Barrera’s statement the during his conference call “his greater heart will offset whatever advantage Morales may have at 130,” was probably what enabled him to hold on just enough not allowing Morales to quite overcome his early lead.
In the last two rounds they fought as if winning meant living and losing was dying. In those final minutes Barrera and Morales went at it refusing to succumb to the other, regardless of what it took. And at the same time they refused to be denied. When the bell rang ending the fight, neither fighter had anything left. And in a fight reminiscent to their first meeting in 2000, Barrera won a majority decision by the scores of 114-114, 115-114, and 115-113.
During the pre-fight promotion and build up, Morales carried himself in a manner that suggested that he didn’t think there was any way he could lose to Barrera. Which is hard for me to fathom since neither fighter ever really had the complete upper hand or dominated the other in the 24 rounds they fought against each other. Morales talked how he’d never been stopped or finished with his face on the ground like Barrera had. He also said that fighting at 130 was the weight he should’ve been fighting at a long time ago and that he was more complete.
However, after losing the fight Morales said “My body didn’t respond to what I wanted it to do, I don’t know why.” If that is true, it’s still no reason not to give Barrera the respect he’s due. Of the three fights between them, this was the only one where there was a decided favorite, and it was Morales. Mainly because Barrera was thought to be finished after the drubbing he took against Pacquiao. On top of that, Morales would be fighting for the fourth time at 130 pounds, a weight Barrera never fought at before.
In this third fight between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales everything was on the line. Probably the least important thing being that the winner would be in line for another pay per view super fight in 2005. Either Barrera would equal Morales in winning a world title at three different weights, or Morales would be the fighter to deny him. They also knew their legacies and place in history would be altered by the outcome in this fight, and most importantly history would recognize the winner as the better fighter.
Well Barrera beat Morales in the biggest and most significant fight in either fighter’s career. Together Barrera and Morales gave boxing a trilogy that measures up against any other three fight series in boxing history, and will no doubt stand the test of time. In winning his third title from Morales, Barrera is more than up one now.