Morales vs. Barrera III – Echoes of Manila
By Tom Gray. (November 23, 2004) 
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“Muhammad Ali has won at the end of the fourteenth round! He did it in the end! The hardest fight of his life! The breakfast time fight of a lifetime…” – BBC’s Harry Carpenter at the conclusion of Ali vs. Frazier III

The comparisons are startling!

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were bitter enemies who fought wars in the ring. They fought three times inside five years. Ali had a comfortable upbringing, while Frazier came up the hard way. 'Smokin' Joe won the first fight and 'The Greatest' took a decision in the second. The first fight was one of the best in history, while the second was maybe a few notches below in terms of action. Prior to their second bout, both prize fighters took part in a scuffle outside the ring and by the time of their third meeting Frazier was considered damaged goods, while Ali was the reigning champion. Have you had enough of the parallels? Okay, one more! Ali was down in the last round of the first fight. Does any of this sound familiar?

All we need now is for Eric Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera to fight an explosive rubber match and the most famous rivalry in sports will have been well and truly revisited. Will the fight be anywhere near as vicious as that sweltering morning in the Philippines? Personally I hope not, because the loser’s career would be as good as dead and the winner would never be the same again. However, this is boxing and I want something close, so don’t think I’m losing my thirst for blood.

The WBC super featherweight title and the huge sums of money being generated are secondary to the rivalry that has manifested itself between these two great champions. Considering, in my opinion, that the previous two decisions should have went the opposite way, you would presume that neither fighter wants to trust the judges and that immediately spells carnage. Also, Morales (like Ali with Frazier) will be under the impression that Barrera is not quite the man he was, given that his rival was demolished by Manny Pacquiao. If 'El Terrible' goes at 'The Baby Faced Assassin' with all guns blazing, then Barrera isn’t going to go backwards.

No matter which way the fight unfolds, my pick is Morales by decision. He is looking better than ever at 130lbs and his game seems to have improved over the last year or so. He boxed beautifully at times against Carlos Hernandez and his power has travelled with him, as his one punch KO of Guty Espades proved, in their rematch. Put simply he is the man in form and although Barrera had a very good comeback win against Paulie Ayala, he has not yet convinced me that he can reach back into his prime and pull out a win of this magnitude. I can only hope that Barrera proves me wrong, because I am a huge fan, but this is a tall order in his debut at super featherweight.

However, it would be foolish to dismiss Barrera completely. He was defeated by Junior Jones twice in a row, but reinvented himself and has since enjoyed the biggest successes of his career. It is not beyond comprehension that the former champion can find the answers again. He is tremendously talented and has the edge in terms of boxing ability, but it is Morales’ power and strength at the new weight that concerns me. I am of the impression that Marco is taking this fight for the money and the glory, not because he has outgrown the featherweight division, and I will be surprised if he stays at 130lbs, win or lose.

Regardless of who wins, this is boxing at its best. The sport has had ups and downs this year, but this match can’t fail to dazzle. It is what fans live for! These two combatants will put their lives on the line, to beat one another, with sheer guts and will power being the order of the day.

Again, does that sound familiar?
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