11.29.04 – By Frank Gonzalez Jr. – Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Marco Antonio Barrera brought his 58-4-0-41 KO’s record into the ring to face him ultimate nemesis, Erik Morales (47-1-0-34 KO’s) for a third time. The sole loss on Erik’s record is compliments of Barrera, who came with four losses on his own record, one-compliments of Morales.
The fight was on HBO’s PPV and many fans, young, old or struggling financially couldn’t afford to pay $50 to see their favorite fighters go at it so I’ll do my best to give an accurate and unbiased account of what transpired in the main event.
These guys made each other famous with their two historic battles in 2000 and again in 2002, where each won a controversial decision over the other. This third fight would break the tie and name the better fighter-for the moment anyway. Morales and Barrera are NOT friends. In fact, they do not like each other one bit. And unlike so many hyped up “Bad Blood” fight promotions; their disdain for each other is sincere.
Both men have been considered in the top five ‘best fighters’ in Boxing for a few years now. But last year, Barrera suffered a devastating knock out loss to Manny Pacquiao, which tarnished him image and suggested he might be past his best days. MAB came back in his next fight and knocked out the very respectable Paulie Ayala in impressive fashion. Maybe Barrera just had a bad night against Pacman? Morales status was recently elevated above Barrera’s.
Their first fight back in February of 2000 was named, “The Fight of the Year.” Two Mexican Super Bantamweight’s battling from start to finish in a wild show of fisticuff madness. The venue was the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The referee was the late, great Mitch Halpern. It was one of the most exciting fights we ever saw and though it was close, many thought Barrera got the shaft by the Judges. Some thought Morales won. I had Barrera winning the first fight by a narrow margin after Morales went down in the 12th round.
Two years later, they fought again, as Featherweights. That was a hell of a rematch and at times, hard to score. I thought Morales did enough to win that one but the Judges scored it for Barrera, 116-114 and 115-113 twice. Barrera didn’t look as beat up as Morales did after that one and again it was a controversial decision. Finally, they duke it out at 130-pounds.
Barrera came on fast and furious, landing uppercuts, left hooks and his jab. Morales scored with his jab. MAB caught Morales on the nose with a left uppercut that caused a dark reddening and looked like it might have been broken his nose. MAB showed impressive hand speed and accuracy. 10-9 Barrera.
Barrera jabbed and boxed. Morales was uncharacteristically stationary until suddenly he burst out with his offense, landing good shots and winning some exchanges. It started getting wild with both head locking each other and throwing sneaky uppercuts with their free hands. There was no love loss here. Morales landed a good body shot; Barrera landed a bigger body shot in return. Some elbow action from Barrera caused referee Kenny Bayless to warn him. It was a battle and getting nasty in a beautiful kind of way. Morales scored the most shots. Barrera kept punching after the bell. 10-9 Morales.
Barrera’s stance was tight, looking to get inside and work. Morales stance was looser, longer and designed to be effective from the outside. MAB whacked Morales, who looked hurt from the earlier shots to his nose. He was breathing through his mouth and looked a bit uncertain. In close, they bump heads and Morales pushed Barrera off him with his shoulder to the face. The ref broke them up. Morales became more aggressive. Barrera landed more combos and looked much faster and effective. 10-9 Barrera.
Morales nose became an issue. Barrera flurried with speedy combinations that focused on the bleeding nose of Morales. Barrera won most of the exchanges and looked to be dominating Morales with cleaner punches. Morales rallied but missed more then he hit. They traded until the bell rang in an action packed round. 10-9 Barrera.
In Morales corner, they were concerned about the nose. They advised Erik to box from the outside. In Barrera’s corner, everyone was happy with what they were seeing.
They boxed. Morales stayed outside trying to use his length to attack but the quicker Barrera was all over him whenever they got close enough, always attacking the body and throwing combinations that always included uppercuts and left hooks. His accuracy was impressive. Morales was definitely suffering from the nose situation. He looked slower then usual, throwing a lot of punches but missing more then landing. Morales wasn’t jabbing much. Barrera caught him against the ropes and whacked him with stinging combinations. 10-9 Barrera.
Morales missed, Barrera jabbed and threw combos when they got close. Barrera slipped away from many of Morales punches. Barrera continually scored to the body and painted Erik’s face with left hooks and uppercuts. Everything was going Barrera’s way as he landed a crushing left hook to Morales cheek that had to hurt him. 10-9 Barrera.
They boxed. During a clinch in the corner, Morales pushed Barrera’s head toward the ring post. The ref stepped in. After warning them both, Bayless instructed them to touch gloves. They refused. Action resumed. Morales countered a Barrera punch with a big right hand to the face that stunned him. Morales was waking up and started to take control of the fight, landing some good body shots as the round ended. 10-9 Morales.
In the corner, Morales looked beat up. His right eye was swollen and cut, his nose a bloody mess. Barrera’s corner told him to stay inside to neutralize Morales’ punching power.
They boxed slowly in the center ring. Suddenly, Morales attacks like a Viper out of nowhere, landing a big right to Barrera’s face followed by effective combinations that scored well. The tide was turning. Barrera rallied but was not as crisp as he was in earlier rounds. Morales looked reinvigorated and threw his right hand more frequently with good results. Barrera landed a nice left, right combination. The ref instructed Barrera to keep his punches up but I didn’t see him throwing anything particularly low. 10-9 Morales.
They boxed a ‘feel out moment’ then started slugging. During a hold, Barrera deliberately hit Morales behind his head. It was dirty. The ref warned Barrera. These guys HATE each other. The Dark Lord of the Sith would have loved ringside seats for this one. Bayless told them to touch gloves. Morales wasn’t hearing that. Neither was Barrera. MAB landed several left hooks and was retaking his place as the more effective puncher. After the bell rang, Barrera threw another punch. Morales stepped to him. Talk about bad blood! 10-9 Barrera.
Morales kept his distance and boxed from the outside, where he landed a few good shots, mostly upstairs. It looked like Morales knew he was behind on the scorecards and was trying to land that one big punch for a knock out. That was a questionable strategy, considering their history. Eventually, Barrera pressed Morales into the ropes and scored with more
left hooks and combos to the body and head. Morales shoe shined Barrera in close. They exchange wild punches until the bell rang. 10-9 Barrera.
Barrera jabbed to the face. Morales countered effectively. Morales got the better of the exchanges as Barrera looked tired and was feeling the effects of some of the body shots Morales landed earlier. Morales landed a big body shot that hurt Barrera, who countered with a left uppercut. Barrera was holding frequently, buying time and keeping Morales too close to hurt him. Barrera rallied late in the round and scored some good shots but Morales scored too and did the most damage in the round. 10-9 Morales.
Bayless grabbed their arms and made them touch gloves. Morales aggressively pressed the action, looking to knock Barrera out with most of his shots going upstairs. Barrera got aggressive too (tired as he was) as they slugged center ring. During an exchange, Morales landed a left jab followed by an overhand right that rocked Barrera, who lost his balance on the logo at center ring, almost falling down. Instead, he grabbed onto Morales, who punched furiously as they fought in a phone booth. Barrera was throwing punches, and then holding. Between clinches, they slugged it out, with Morales showing desperation to floor Barrera. Both let the leather fly as they rumbled around the ring. Morales face was a bloody mess. Barrera was dead tired but kept on fighting. After one clinch, Morales pushed down on Barrera’s head and Barrera’s glove touched the canvas. It was a push, and Bayless said nothing as they continued to brawl. Morales clearly had the better stamina late as he tried to KO Barrera, who came on strong with ten seconds left and forced Morales into the ropes where he scored big shots to the face and body of Morales. They banged until the bell rang. After the bell, Barrera threw a shot to the body. It was over. 10-9 Morales.
Barrera’s corner lifted him with his arms raised in victory. Morales looked on. I believe that it was the busted nose that lost the fight for Morales. It impeded his breathing and gave extra confidence to Barrera. But if he had a better defense early on, that probably wouldn’t have been an issue.
The Official scores were read.
Paul Smith had it 114-114, even.
Jerry Roth scored it, 115-113 for Barrera.
Larry O’Connell scored it, 115-114 for Barrera.
Sharkie’s Machine scored it 115-113 for Barrera.
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Congratulations to Marcos Antonio Barrera, the new Super Featherweight Champion. This time the real winner won the fight and there was no controversial ending. I wonder if Barrera will keep the WBC Title Belt. His new promoter, Oscar De La Hoya was very happy. Having Barrera in the stable of his Golden Boy Promotions adds to his already gigantic clout in the business of Boxing. Maybe DLH will be the next Don King? Lets hope not.
Barrera and his father went to shake hands with Morales after all was said and done but Morales wouldn’t shake hands and threw water in the face of Barrera’s father. Apparently, Barrera tried to show Morales some respect but Morales wasn’t having it.
You’d think after three monumental battles these two could at least have some respect for each other. I give Barrera extra credit for being the bigger man in that situation.
During the post fight interviews, Larry Merchant asked Barrera what he felt about the way Morales behaved when he and his father went to shake hands with him. Barrera said it was sad that Morales showed bad sportsmanship and no education (no class). Then he went on to explain the strategy he employed to beat the heavily favored Morales, staying close to him and nullifying his punching power by denying him the extension of his reach. As it turned out, Morales being 11 pounds heavier than Barrera gave him no advantage.
A moment later, Merchant interviewed Morales. When asked what he thought about Barrera’s claim that he was a bad sport for not shaking hands with Barrera and his father, Morales dismissed the notion that he was a “bad sport” because he said Barrera used some dirty tactics, including use of the elbows to the right side of his head and ear. No love lost there. Unlike Mickey Ward and Arturo Gatti, who will be friends forever after their three brutal fights, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera will remain adversaries both in and outside the ring, like Frazier and Ali of yesteryear.
Great rivalries in Boxing demonstrate that a win today does not necessarily mean a win tomorrow and that there are so many elements involved in being able to triumph over the strongest adversaries. It says so much about the human spirit and all the other various elements that make fighters who they are.
It takes a lot of courage to face a fighter who bested you before-as much as it takes to fight someone who you beat before who’s bent on redemption. I think only the toughest fighters engage in rivalries. This separates the ‘primadona’ fighters (who would not risk the chance of losing to a fighter they beat before) from the real Warriors, who live for more then just a big payday.
Ward vs. Gatti, I, II and III and Barrera vs. Morales I, II, and III have given so much to Boxing, like the great historic rivalries that preceded them. These guys make me proud to be a fan of a sport that has such a dubious reputation. These Warriors are proof that sometimes, in spite of all the politics of corruption in the Boxing, great fighters will emerge and shine a positive light on a sport that languishes in shadows of mainstream sports.
It’s disgraceful that the fights that would best promote the sport in the mainstream are unavailable to the potential fight fans of the future-kids. If the best fights were on PPV when I was a kid, I doubt I would have followed the sport as religiously as I did and I definitely wouldn’t be writing about Boxing today.
PPV helps keep Boxing a ‘cult sport’ instead of a mainstream sport. Too bad the greedy folks who rule Boxing can’t see where the real money is. I bet the average, mainstream professional athletes in football, basketball, hockey, etc. make more money, fame and benefits from their sports then 95% of the amazing athletes who fight professionally.
Once upon a time, all you needed was a transistor radio to catch a major fight. If you had a television set, you could watch great fights on regular TV with colorful commentators like Howard Cossell calling the action. Today, you have to pay for monthly Cable TV service and shell out an extra fifty bucks to see the big fights on Pay-Per-View. Most times the under cards are lousy, the main events are predictable and when the bill comes from the cable company, you feel like a sucker. It sure is
expensive to be a hardcore boxing fan these days.
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Agree or disagree?
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