11.28.04 – By Wray Edwards: The English language is rich in adjectives and superlatives, but even attempting to use the best of them somehow seems a futile quest when reporting the conclusion of this great rivalry. Marco Barrera stood in and laid waste to the dour predictions of his many detractors. Shaking off any negative effects that might have accrued from his loss to Manny Pacquiao, and leaping over Ayala, Barrera landed squarely on his feet in front of his gateway to victorious destiny: Erik Morales.
All he had to do was solve the puzzle of Morales’ great skills; to unlock this last barrier, and swing wide the gates to his new and expanding career horizons. The pre-fight “wisdom” was that Ayala was no challenge, that the Pac Man’s victory might have started him downhill, that his brave step up to Jr. Lightweight was ill advised, and that Erik’s youth by two years were all signs and signals of approaching doom. Sometimes, if you squint your eyes, you can almost see a family resemblance between Barrera and Kostya Tszyu.
These brothers of the ring are often shorter than their foes and older to boot, but terrific heart and power inside, mixed with highly accurate skills spells success in the face of adversity. The big difference between the two is Marco’s poker face, which only seems to change when he is gritting his teeth to rip at the battlements of his opponents in the ring. On this night of nights, this smaller version of Tszyu came blazing out of his corner to set fire to Morales’ field of dreams.
ROUND ONE had Marco coming out to meet Erik about evenly throughout with, perhaps, a slight edge. It was obvious that Barrera was not going to wait as he had done during the first half of their second bout. In ROUND TWO Morales at one point held Marco with his right arm and wailed away with his left. So Barrera reverses the action, holds Erik with his left arm and blazes away with his right. Just as Referee Kenny Bayless moves to step in on these shenanigans the fighters broke off and began to box.
At 0:31 of Round Two a very telling blow was struck. Near the ropes Marco throws a left jab, followed by a right and a sweeping left upper-cut which damaged Erik’s nose in some way. From the end of that round on, Morales’ corner worked on his left nostril every break. Erik was forced to breathe past his mouth guard from then on. Even so, Morales might have claimed Round Two.
ROUNDS THREE through SIX saw Barrera dominate in numbers, combinations and power. Multiple jabs followed by streaking rights drove Erik back. Almost every time Marco got off first Erik seemed frozen and retreating, unable to collect himself until Barrera stepped back to formulate another attack. Marco threw many effective body shots through the first half of the fight. The vaunted “eleven pounds”, which were supposed by some to be an advantage to Erik, might have been one reason he was
On the other hand, Barrera seems to have moved up to 130 with ease and possibly some improvement. Morales will carry proof of the mangling power of Marco’s left, on the right side of his face, for the rest of his life. ROUNDS SEVEN AND EIGHT clearly went to Morales as Barrera slowed, did not get off first, and generally fought a defensive six minutes.
ROUND NINE had Marco picking up the pace again and nearing a points dominance which might force Morales to KO the man from Mexico D.F. or lose the fight. At 1:18 Marco struck Erik in the back of the head a few times and got a stern warning from the ref. Morales refused to touch gloves after the incident. And speaking of gloves – both fighters wore the Japanese gloves required by Morales even though Barrera’s probably had to be cut to even get them on. Erik has smaller hands and there was quite some controversy over a possible back-out by Marco over this detail.
Nine ended with Erik throwing a light connect straight right after the bell followed by a Barrera right to the back of Erik’s left arm. Both boxers got all huffy and went all herd-faced towards each other. Kenny had to chase them off to their corners.
ROUND TEN was significant in that there were several instances where Morales had a look on his face which gave away his real attitude about this fight. It seemed to be a chore for which he was reluctantly prepared. Conversely, Barrera was obviously on a mission and had the bit in his teeth to prove something and rip Erik’s belt away from him. In fact the fight was a perfect example of this disparity. Morales was “defending” his title, while Marco was aggressively “attacking” to make his point; to become the subtitled Mexican Champion as well as the Jr. Lightweight Champion of the World.
This difference proved to be the linchpin of the contest. Simply put, Marco Barrera’s offence is superior to Morales’ defense. Erik just does not have the defensive skills to prevail against Barrera’s offensive skills. Combine that proven fact with Morales’ possible motivational deficits, and an outcome in Barrera’s favor seems probable.
ROUND ELEVEN was truly a Morales round as he increased his head-hunting tactics which possibly betrayed his wish to KO Marco rather than try to win by boxing with his inferior potentials. Indeed, at 2:04 of the Eleventh Erik gave Barrera a fearsome beating about the head and shoulders as the nearly exhausted Barrera began to hold and clinch. This behavior increased around 1:24 as Marco was really fatigued. Then at 1:09 they both fought in a frenzy of withering punches in homage to round five of their first match.
ROUND TWELVE arrived to the sorrowing realization of us all, that this was the last bottle of a rare vintage in our beloved sport. In fitting tribute, Morales finally relented, and touched gloves with Marco to pull the cork on their last taste of this heady brew which has intoxicated us all over the years. Just twenty seconds into the round a fearsome tragedy almost occurred.
At 2:40 of the twelfth, just after Morales misses Marco with a left, Barrera threw a right cross which doesn’t do much, but his footing at the time was on the dratted beer logo in the middle of the canvas. The corporate advertisement was painted on so thick that Barrera’s right foot slips, then his left as he fell to his left and staggered backwards at 2:39. Sensing an opportunity, Morales surged forward in a vicious attempt to capitalize on Marco’s misfortune. Realizing the true reason for
Barrera’s fall, the ref started forward to help Marco regain his balance caused by the defective nature of the canvass.
With all his might and will, Marco regained his balance and just did evade Erik’s opportunistic pounce. Lampley reported a punch to be the cause of Marco’s problem but Roy Jones again proved his value as a commentator with his sharp-eyed correction of Jim’s gaff by pointing out the real cause. This writer has warned before, that if something is not done to stop greedy corporations from painting traction-defeating logos in the middle of boxing rings, somebody is really going to get hurt, or
lose a match because of the unsafe conditions caused by these absurd and intrusive advertisements. Besides, we paid for this event. Why should we be continually assaulted by this sub-liminal trash?
Marco was at the end of his rope and Erik was still harboring fantasies of knocking Barrera out. With titanic will both fighters ended the fight with Morales trying to knock the clinching and staggering Barrera out, and Marco reaching into the barest of cupboards to find one last crumb to sustain him to the bell. Marco must have found a saving tidbit, as he closed to the bell, beating the very tar out of Morales who staggered to the ropes. The judges scored 114/114, 115/114 and 115/113 to
give Barrera a majority decision. We had it eight rounds to four for Marco.
To a crescendo of cheers and applause, the two Mexican Heroes stepped away from each other for the last time. And it was over. Another benchmark rivalry became cherished fighting history, as the bell tolled for thee and me to end our Boxing dream.
Roman generals would be given a victory parade upon returning from foreign conquests. The cheering populace would wave and throw flowers, as their heroes passed in procession with captured slaves and treasures of gold. To remind these mighty soldiers of their mortal fate, a servant would stand at their side on the triumphal chariot, holding a wreath of laurel over their heads, and whispering in their ear that “All glory is fleeting”.