by James Goyder
Marco Antonio Barrera has faced Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao twice but he had never been to the Philippines until this week, when he landed in Cebu to corner Moises Fuentes for his world title fight on Saturday.
Fuentes, the WBO Minimumweight World Champion, is moving up to 108 lbs to challenge Donnie Nietes for his WBO Light Flyweight World Title in the main event of Pinoy Pride 18 .
Fuentes fights out of Barrera’s gym and is trained by his brother Julio and the Mexican legend predicted that he would put on a show for the Filipino fans when he takes on Nietes at the Waterfront Hotel & Casino,
“Tomorrow it will be a war which not only people in the Philippines will like but people all over the world. I am very happy to be here it’s my first time and the people in the Philippines are similar to Mexico and I feel like family with all the people here in Cebu,” he said.
Fuentes record is officially listed as 16-1 although he supposedly has another ten wins to his name and Barrera said that his biggest assets are his speed and his sheer will to win,
“My brother worked with me all the time when I was active in the boxing he was in my corner and now he is working in my gym. Moises Fuentes has been working with us for nine years and he is very fast, he does not have good power but he has a big heart. I don’t know exactly how many wins he has,” he said.
Predictably the subject quickly turned from tomorrow night’s Pinoy Pride 18 to Barrera’s own exploits in the ring and his thoughts on old adversaries Juan Manuel Marquez, Eric Morales and, unavoidably on his first ever visit to the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao. Of the latter he had nothing but praise,
“ I am happy because I know that I lost to the best of the best in Manny Pacquiao. I see Manny a lot and we say hello to each other, the last time before we had a fight we were running together and we are friends, we meet regularly.”
He also made it clear that he doesn’t see Pacquaio’s recent loss at the hands of Marquez as evidence of his demise and would not be drawn on whether or not Pacquiao should retire,
“I don’t believe that Manny Pacquiao is going down, it just happened that he got hit by a lucky punch from Marquez. It’s Manny’s decision, whether he thinks he has the qualities and the faculties to be a good boxer or a good politician, it is his decision.”
Barrera has a reputation for being involved in some of boxing’s most memorable fights and he showed he will not shy away from controversy outside of the ring when he responded to questions about former opponent Juan Manuel Marquez’s increase in size and new found punching power with the following retort,
“He must have a good doctor!”
The issue of PEDs repeatedly came up and while Barrera fell short of naming names he did question why fighter physiques had changed so dramatically since the days when he was in his prime,
“”I have never seen drugs myself nor have I tried them but the body of the boxers nowadays is different from the bodies of the boxers before, that’s all I can say,” he said.
Barrera won world titles at three different weights and is guaranteed to be inducted into the boxing hall of fame as soon as he becomes eligible. Two of his three wars with Eric Morales were named ‘Fight of the Year’ and many more of his fights were in contention for this award.
Now aged 39 he has not fought for two years and claims he has become fully domesticated since retirement,
“I wash clothes in my house and iron them, I cook and I bring my children to school. My wife gets angry if I don’t iron her clothes well!”
According to Barerra he never officially retired, he simply stopped looking for fights once he reached the age of 39 but he still runs and goes to the gym and is walking around at an athletic 148 lbs. While many boxers struggle to come to terms with the end of their careers the Mexican is adamant that he is content never to enter the squared circle again,
“I miss the people, the arena, the adrenaline of the ring but I am 39 year old and I do what I have to do. I won titles at three different weights, I fought with the best, I lost twice to Manny Pacquiao, I had a tough fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, I fought three times with Eric Morales. I think I did the best for me in this beautiful sport.”
These might sound like the words of a man whose fighting days belong firmly in his past but Barrera would not rule out the possibility of a comeback and was in the market for a rematch with Marquez as recently as last year,
“Prior to the fight of Manny with Marquez (in 2012) I asked for a fight with Marquez but Marquez did not grant it so for me that was it.”
While the scorecards had Marquez winning their first fight by a wide margin most felt the contest was much closer with the decision by referee Jay Nady to deduct Barrera a point for an illegal blow, instead of awarding him a knockdown, in round seven potentially decisive and Barrera feels that this proved a turning point in his career,
“I lost my steam when I fought Marquez and the fight was given to him, everybody saw that fight and the people know who won,” he said.
That was in 2007 but there is still no love lost between the two men and Barerra has given up hope of ever getting a rematch,
“After my fight with Marquez he doesn’t talk to me anymore! If Marquez said ‘no’ to me a year ago why would he say ‘yes’ to me now?”
The rivalry between Barrera and Morales and the scintillating trilogy it produced will go down in the annals of boxing history but, even after all these years, there is still bad blood between the two and Barrera denied reports that he had buried the hatchet with the man he has been toe to toe with for 36 rounds,
“I offered my friendship to Morales but he seems to still have a bad inclination towards me.”
Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, son of the famous Julio Cesar Chavez, is at the forefront of modern Mexican boxing but none of Barrera’s sons are likely to follow in their Father’s footsteps as all three, apparently, prefer football. While Barrera paints a picture of himself as a contented house husband he has got as far as discussing a comeback with his wife and, should the right offer emerge, he has her blessing to return to the ring,
“I have asked my wife to grant me two last fights and we decided that if a good fighter wants to fight against me than good, but if not I am happy with everything I have accomplished in boxing.”
Barrera won his two fights immediately prior to retirement, outpointing Adailton De Jesus in 2010 and stopping Jose Arias inside two rounds in 2011. His last loss came at the hands of Amir Khan and was controversial with the English referee waiting until after the end of round four, the cut off point at which a prematurely stopped fight can go to the scorecards, to ask the doctor to take a look at a serious cut which had been inflicted on the Mexican by an accidental headbutt in the opening round.
Don King, who was Barrera’s promoter at the time, filed a formal complaint but the decision was upheld and Barrera would like another shot at Khan who is currently competing, with mixed results, at 140 lbs,
“I would like to fight Amir Khan again, not for the money but just to set the record straight.”
Any long term boxing fan would be able to name their top three Marco Antonio Barrera fights, albeit not without a little bit of hesitation because the competition is intense. The man himself took a slight liberty by naming an opponent he faced on three occasions but after a moment of contemplation listed the following as being his personal favourites’
“Kennedy Mckinney because he was the hardest, Eric Morales because of the way we fought, Naseem Hamed not because of the fighting but because of the strategy.”
Barrera’s legacy, as one of the greatest boxers of the 21st century, is secure and he is entitled to be nonchalant about a prospective comeback, claiming that if the right offer doesn’t materialize he is happy to continue with his domestic chores. Whether his career continues beyond this point remains to be seen but if it doesn’t he will always have some of the most memorable fights of the modern era to look back on.