It wasn’t the result Daniel “Chucky” Barrera wanted for his second professional fight, but after a draw with Isaac Anguiano in November, he learned plenty of lessons that he expects to take with him in his return to the Quiet Cannon Country Club in Montebello this Friday against Victor Hernandez Martin.
“Everything's different,” said Barrera. “You’ve got to remain calm, and when you're in the deep waters - which is probably the biggest thing that I've learned sparring with Chocolatito (Gonzalez) - you can't react to everything. You can't rush through the rounds. You’ve got to take every round one by one, be patient, establish your jab and focus on the combinations that you're trying to set up in the later rounds. So I definitely learned patience. And it's a different feeling when you're getting hit with eight ounces and no headgear.”
Barrera laughs, and it’s clear that he’s not letting the draw affect his current – and future – mindset. This is boxing, anything can happen, especially when a fighter leaves things up to the three judges at ringside, and when you jump into the pro ranks by fighting solid competition and not opponents looking for a soft place to lie down, you have to be on top of your game – mentally and physically – every time you step between the ropes. Because if you fight a steady stream of no-hopers, when you do get in there with a live body 15-16 fights into your career, the result is usually a foregone conclusion.
“Yeah, exactly,” Barrera agrees. “They get hurt or just completely dominated and it's not what they expected it to be.”
To avoid that, the 21-year-old is taking his time learning his craft. It’s something he owes to his work with the future hall of famer, “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, as well as from watching two other legends of the sport, Ricardo “Finito” Lopez and Juan Manuel Marquez. And oh, how nice is it to hear a 21-year-old realizing that there was boxing before Jake Paul turned pro.
“Finito Lopez is just a different animal, a different style,” said Barrera. “He fought anybody and he dominated. That's one of my favorite fighters and I feel like we have a similar style when it comes to the boxing side, but if I have to come forward, I can come forward and bang it out. But definitely Lopez and Marquez were very great.”
They also displayed the patience – in the ring and outside of it – that eventually led them to world championships and greatness. Barrera – a work in progress with obvious talent – is still working on that patience, something obvious during the four-rounder with Anguiano.
“No complaints, I got the experience,” Barrera said. “He came to fight; I came to fight. I made the mistakes. I kept tripping on his foot and as soon as I stripped over his foot, everything that we worked on went out the window. So there goes me being impatient and frustrated, and I fought with more emotion than anything.”
Emotions can sometimes push a fighter to new heights. More often than not, though, it leads in the other direction.
“I'd say it's mildly difficult,” laughed Barrera when asked about keeping his emotions in check once the fists start flying. “I'm very good at following the game plan and I've learned to be patient and everything, but yeah, there are times I get a little emotional in there where I want to give him three because he hit me once or he snuck in a little elbow and I want to tee off on his head, but I’ve got to calm down because then that's when you get hit and that's when you're open and most vulnerable.”
Knowing the problem is the first step to solving the problem, and that’s the plan for fight number three, but there will be the little issue of the crowd, which was out in force and chanting “Chucky, Chucky” all night the last time out. That’s seemingly a good problem to have, but it can also turn a technical, winning fight into an all-out brawl where all bets are off.
“Well, in my first fight I probably had as many people, but since it was a bigger arena the sound wasn't as loud,” said Barrera, who fought at Fantasy Springs in Indio when he made his pro debut last July. “But since this arena was very small and kind of enclosed, oh man, I couldn't hear anything. (Laughs) All I heard was them, no instructions, nothing. All I could hear is just the crowd and usually I'm good at blocking stuff out like that, but that time I couldn't. Every second someone was chanting my nickname.”
Does he hope they’re a little more laid-back this Friday?
“Not necessarily,” he laughs. “I'm just going to have to deal with it, believe in my ability on my own and then come back to the corner and get the instructions that I need.”
And when he gets this one out of the way, he expects to be back at it ASAP throughout 2023, a year he hopes to close by getting to the five or six win mark.
“I think it's very important because you don't lose your momentum,” Barrera said of staying busy. “You don't really have to do as much sparring, take as much damage in training camp. So it's really good and you can't complain when you're getting that experience. And right now, boxing is kind of boring since everybody's fighting maybe twice a year. So hopefully I can be that guy in the future that I could fight as often as I can, even while I make it to the top. That'll be great.”