Barrera: The Great ones Rise to the Occasion
By Chris Robinson (November 28, 2004) 
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When the third fight between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales was announced I didn’t know what to think. I felt that seeing either man against Filipino hurricane Manny Pacquiao would be more interesting and that perhaps the third encounter between these two would possibly be a letdown of sorts. Of course I was factoring into the equation that the fighter I favored, Barrera, would most likely be on the losing end of things and that was a sight that I never liked witnessing. I also had a fresh image of their rematch in my head, as opposed to their first encounter which was all out warfare for 12 heated rounds. By no means was Barrera-Morales II a bad fight, but at times is resembled more of a slow paced chess match as opposed to the sheer brutality that these two were capable of dishing out. Going into the third encounter I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.

As the undercard rolled on, I talked briefly over the phone with Jr. Lightweight contender Nate Campbell. Campbell wasn’t ordering the PPV for various reasons and told me he would rather watch HBO a week later and catch the replay. Fair enough. To each their own, I thought. We still agreed to keep in touch during the card so that I could advise him of the proceedings. WBO minimumweight champion Ivan Calderon won a twelve rounder over Carlos Fajardo and looked sharp in doing it. As it's the case in most of his fights, Calderon was content on boxing his way towards a win as opposed to searching for the knockout. The fight was somewhat lackluster but Calderon did what he could.

IBF bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez scored an eighth round TKO over former two-time champion Mauricio Pastrana in a fight that was hard to watch near the end. Being a big Pastrana fan, it was hard seeing the little guy’s eyes swell up, but he’ll live to fight another day. As I talked about the Pastrana fight with Campbell, he was also disappointed, being a Pastrana fan himself. Nate reminded me that when he was starting his pro career he was actually set to spar with Mauricio once and made sure to mention that Mauricio was a cool customer both in and out of the ring. For his part, Marquez looked solid and keeps his steady roll at Bantamweight alive and well. Word has it that he is even thinking of going up a class to 122 lbs., an intriguing move to say the least.

Moments later WBC super bantamweight champion Oscar Larios would decision Nedal Hussein over twelve rounds by scores of 118-110, 119-109, and 120-108 to retain his title. Larios was his usual self, sticking and moving and coming at Hussein with an endless amount of punches. He wasn’t spectacular in winning but it's yet another strong win to add to his resumé. Larios has been looking pretty damn good of late and is one of the more underrated champions in the game. One can only imagine what fireworks a showdown with WBO champ Joan Guzman would produce.

Three fine champions in Calderon, Marquez, and Larios all kept their belts but it was now time for the night’s feature attraction. Barrera and his team came into the ring first and Marco seemed subdued and calm, as it's usually the case with him. Morales entered with his WBC Super featherweight belt and seemed completely confident of what was about to transpire. Before the fight the HBO crew mentioned Morales’ remarks regarding how he felt he was simply in another league than Barrera and that the third fight would be easy work for him. Despite his bravado, the night would take a complete turn come the ring of bell one.

From the outset it was Barrera who applied the pressure and instantly I had flashbacks to their first meeting. Judging from just the first 30 seconds of Barrera’s attack, I knew we were all in for something special. The talk of the loss to Manny Pacquiao and the change in weight for MAB was all put to the side as he went about his business with brilliant aggression. The left hooks to the body, pinpoint combinations, and the look of a champion were all intact as Barrera built up an early lead. True to his form, Morales was fighting back but seemed a bit taken back by Barrera’s aggression and energy. As the fight neared midway, Barrera began to dominate and had Morales in trouble. Things looked bleak but at this point we got to see Morales' pride emerge once again.

Erik dug deep and found his second wind, staying at range and jarring Barrera with right hands in the 7th round. Morales kept things up in the 8th and the fight appeared to be getting closer on the cards. A complete change in momentum seemed near but this was to be Marco’s night and he responded down the stretch. Barrera simply was the better man and closed the show in full command. The exchanges were fierce but Barrera always seemed to have the edge. When the bell rang for the 12th round, both guys raised their fists in celebration but it was apparent who the real winner was. Scores of 114-114, 115-114, and 115-113 were read in Marco Antonio Barrera’s favor, in one of the finest moments of his career. With the win Barrera takes Morales’ WBC belt and a rematch with Manny Pacquiao becomes even more interesting.

After the fight Barrera was in great spirits, as was his promoter, Oscar de la Hoya. Morales seemed very disappointed; he mentioned that the fight was close and that Barrera got away with some dirty tactics. It truly was a tremendous fight that ranks right up their with their first clash. Going into the fight I had my doubts about Marco Antonio Barrera, but he still is a great fighter and great fighters have a way of rising to the occasion and surprising us time and time again.
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