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Marco Antonio Barrera: Don’t Count Out The Baby Faced Assassin
Juan Angel Zurita (June 18, 2004) 
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After losing his second fight to Junior Jones in 1997, Marco Antonio Barrera contemplated walking away from the sport of boxing. Staring two heartbreaking defeats in the eyes, he was disheartened by his newfound reality. He was no longer at the top.

Prior to meeting up with Jones, Barrera was on a mega-roll. He was 43-0, considered one of boxing’s best, hailed as the ‘next Chavez’, and on the fast train to Canastota. Impressive victories over Agapito Sanchez and Kennedy McKinney had the boxing world buzzing, particularly the latter, the type of action filled fight that would convert a ping-pong nerd into a diehard boxing fanatic.

But rather than hang ‘em up after the Jones setback, Barrera took a ten month break, and put the losses behind him. He’d have no regrets as he’d go on to give then undefeated 122 pound badass, Erik ‘El Terrible’ Morales, the fight of his life. And despite losing a controversial decision in 2000’s Fight of The Year, Barrera had made his point. “Don’t ever count him out.”

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Soon after his grueling war with ‘El Terrible’, Barrera was targeted by the arrogant and brash featherweight ‘Prince’, Naseem Hamed, for he was perceived to be a past his prime fighter who had seen his better days. It all sounded too familiar to Barrera.

He entered the Hamed bout as a 3-1 underdog as most of the boxing world didn’t believe he’d be able to cope with Hamed’s dynamite filled fists. However, he dispelled that notion by putting together a magnificent boxing exhibition. His patient counter-punching style and precise stiff jab kept the champion off balance and exposed his 'Swiss cheese' defense. De Ja Vu. Again, he’d made his point clear but this time more emphatically than the last. “Don’t ever count him out again.”

Riding high off the Hamed victory, Barrera strung together several defenses over game but overmatched opponents before locking horns with Morales in a rematch of their 2000 classic. This time both chose to fight more cautiously and it resulted in a close controversial decision for Barrera. Thankfully, on a bad night, he still managed to remain at the top.

Next, he easily knocked off former champions Kevin Kelley and Johnny Tapia, but grew complacent atop the featherweight mountain. He entered his November 2003 match-up with Filipino southpaw banger Manny Pacquiao as a 4-1 favorite, exhibiting the same arrogance Hamed displayed in their bout. Barrera took the young lion lightly and it cost him dearly. Off the perch again.

This Saturday from Carson City, CA, on an HBO televised card, Barrera will begin yet another climb towards the Mount Rushmore peak. In his first fight since his devastating loss to Pacquiao, Barrera will meet former 118 and 122 pound champion Paulie Ayala in a crossroads match-up of mass significance.

Ayala, who has been in with some of the toughest pugilists in the game such as Johnny Tapia and Erik Morales, won’t be showing up to lie down. He’ll provide Barrera with a stiff test, the kind that will allow us to gauge how much the former 'Featherweight King' has left. If Barrera doesn’t come in at the top of his game, Ayala could write the final chapter in his career.

Barrera understands that and he won’t be taking Ayala lightly. He knows how important this fight is for his career. It’s an opportunity to prove that he still has plenty of fire left deep within. Should he come out victorious, he might get his chance to redeem himself in a Pacquiao rematch later this fall.

And if we’ve all learned anything about Barrera over the years it is that we should never count him out. For if we do, he may very well have the last laugh.

Barrera/Ayala Prediction

I foresee Barrera coming out as the boxer early on using his stiff jab to set the pace. As the fight progresses, Barrera will realize he’s in against a soft puncher and will increase the aggression and begin to leave himself open leading to some exciting exchanges. Ayala will always be game, but will always be a step behind. In the end, all signs point to a Barrera victory. He’s much younger, bigger, stronger, and is desperately seeking redemption.

Barrera via decision in an entertaining scrap.

Taylor/Marquez Prediction

The supporting bout features up and coming middleweight contender Jermain Taylor up against former junior middleweight champion Raul Marquez. I’m not afraid to say it so I’ll say it again. Marquez has no business in the ring with Taylor and Taylor’s handlers should be ashamed of themselves. For all the hype he’s getting, it’s time to step into the ring with some real middleweights and justify those high divisional ratings. Taylor is a top 3 rated contender in 3 of the 4 major organizations, but he’s yet to face a true middleweight with a pulse. Oh, enough ranting. Now on to the fight.

Marquez is a southpaw, therefore it will take Taylor’s jab a few rounds to adjust and consistently find its mark. Marquez is known for busting up quickly and we’ll see much of the same here. Taylor will be too big, strong, young, you name it. Taylor will take his time and break Marquez down within 8 rounds.
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