Marco Antonio Barrera
Marco Antonio Barrera ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’ is a fighter who has never known how to back down from a fight. Described by one boxing commentator as "being in more wars that the 101st airborne" Barrera’s fights are still highly anticipated around the world.
Starting out young
He made his first professional fight at the age of 15 (he lied about his age saying he was 17) knocking out his opponent within two rounds. Barrera fought five more times, beating all his opponents before his age was discovered, to which he said, "I was like, ‘What? Do you want me to go back now? I've already knocked out five adults" His response was pretty self explanatory and throughout his early career he tore through opponents one after the other.
His three fight saga against his fellow Mexican, Erik Morales, is one of the best trilogies of modern times, standing alongside those of Leonard/Duran, Holyfield/Bowe and Gatti/Ward.
He became notorious after the amazing series of fights with Morales, and British fight fans will remember his destruction of Prince Naseem Hamed in 2001, which went a long way to ending the Prince’s career. A come-forward fighter, Barrera rarely has a fight taken to him: he is almost always the aggressor, capable of calculated combinations that sap energy and confidence from his opponents. Barrera has the ability to box his way around his opponent or stand toe to toe in jaw dropping exchanges, like those seen against Morales.
Working class hero
He is an icon amongst working class Mexicans, despite his privileged upbringing: his parents wanted Barrera to pursue a career in law. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he is able to go about his life without being noticed. Much of his popularity stems from the fact he turned down an easier life in law and followed the passion he had for boxing into the ring.
Barrera had a very impressive amateur career with a record of 60 fights and 55 victories, before making his move into the world of professional boxing at the tender age of 15. The first seven years of his professional career were spent learning his trade and picking up titles such as the Mexican super flyweight title and the NABF super flyweight belt.
Picking up titles
Barrera first captured a major title after defeating the WBO junior feather weight champion Daniel Jimenez in 1995; he went on to defend his title four times that year. Then came the fight that had many in the boxing world hailing Barrera as the next Julio Cesar Chavez. Barrera’s bout against Kennedy McKinney was the first of many wars that Barrera would be embroiled in, throughout his career. The two slugged out the contest, with McKinney being knocked down five times to Barrera’s one. Barrera finally managed to stop McKinney in the 12th round of the fight, earning the respect of the wider boxing public and all those in his weight division.
Getting up off the canvas
After his brilliant performance in the McKinney fight, Barrera faced the quick and agile Junior Jones. The fight started brightly for Barrera and he led after four rounds. However, in the fifth, Jones hurt Barrera with a powerful combination and floored him. Barrera rose from the canvas; however, Jones was a relentless finisher and Barrera’s corner stepped in to stop the fight when they saw their man was in serious danger. The Jones defeat shook Barrera who up until that point had looked to be heading forward without many obstacles. Barrera and Jones had a rematch, with Barrera working to a game plan that again seemed to be working at first; however, Jones again unravelled Barrera and the fight ended in a unanimous decision for Jones.
The Jones fights made Barrera change his style and attitude. Before the Jones defeat he had been known as a hard hitter. Afterwards, he focused on boxing his way around quick opponents and not getting caught with damaging shots.
He regrouped with three KO’s and claimed the WBO featherweight title from Richie Wenton. Then in February 2000 came the first of his clashes with Erik ‘El Terrible’ Morales.
The start of a saga
Morales was widely tipped to defeat Barrera after he easily beat Jones in four rounds and Barrera went into the fight as a 2-1 underdog. However, the Morales fight became the platform from which Barrera relaunched his career. The two fighters had also developed a dislike for each other with Barrera, the privileged middle class fighter, pitted against Morales, the working class street brawler. Barrera started the fight by taking it to Morales, hitting and hurting him with some brutal head body shots, but Morales regrouped and the fight turned into a slugfest in the middle rounds, with both men connecting with hurtful and scoring shots. Although Morales had the bigger work rate, it was Barrera who was landing the more hurtful shots and he scored a knockdown against Morales in the final round that many thought would swing the fight in his favour. However, the judges scored the fight in favour of Morales which outraged many people at ringside who had witnessed what they thought was a Barrera victory.
Although Barrera had suffered his third defeat, his performance had re-established him as a fighter that everyone wanted to see. After three KO’s he then faced Prince Naseem Hamed, the undefeated knockout specialist. Like the Morales fight, there was ‘needle’ in the contest, with some billing the fight as the Catholic (Barrera) versus the Muslim (Hamed). Barrera commanded the fight and repeatedly beat Hamed to the punch, landing powerful jabs to Hamed’s face that kept him reeling and off balance for the majority of the fight. Although he did not knock the Prince out he won the contest unanimously.
Then came the second Morales fight, which proved to be a tactical encounter that seemed to be in favour of Morales. However, Barrera managed to snatch victory with late flurries and combinations that hurt Morales.
Finally on top
The now undisputed featherweight champion, Barrera, went on to fight two former champions, Kelley and Tapia. He defeated both fighters and looked to have finally established himself as, pound for pound, one of the best fighters in the world. However, Barrera then faced Manny ‘Pac Man’ Pacquiao, the powerful puncher and awkward fighter. Barrera was defeated in a contest that the ‘Pac Man’ dominated, consistently beating Barrera to the punch and stopping Barrera in the eleventh round.
Barrera had looked out of sorts against the ‘Pac Man’ and many again ruled Barrera out as he went into the third fight with Morales. However, once again Barrera showed his ability, out-boxing and dominating Morales in a one sided fight.
After finally defeating and settling the score with Morales, Barrera then went on to fight Rocky Juarez. However, Barrera lost the fight after having a knock down ruled out, after he hit Juarez when he was on the ground, showing the unpredictable and self destructive side of his nature.
Although Barrera was not able to become a four division champion, he is with little doubt one of the most entertaining and respected fighters of the modern era. Fighting anyone who was put in front of him and recovering after defeats that would have stopped lesser fighters, he confirmed himself in the process, as one of the Mexican greats.