This past weekend, Mariana "La Barby" Juarez created another fabled chapter in boxing history to become the WBC's new bantamweight world champion, and the first EVER Mexican woman to capture green and gold glory in three weight categories, by comprehensively defeating Zambian Catherine Phiri in a fantastic intense and so emotional thriller in the Zócalo, Mexico City.
In the main duel of the evening, Mariana skilfully, artfully, cunningly and bravely drew from her deep well of championship experience. Inspired by the sheer wall of encouragement from a huge crowd of fans willing her on, guided by her brilliant boxing skills and sustained with the courage of a lioness, Marina was clearly out boxing, cuffing and dominating, to surpass Catherine.
In smart acknowledgement of Catherine's power, Mariana established her ramrod left jab in the opening round, but the Champion steamed in unleashing quick fire combinations to the head. Mariana kept her composure and boxing together,drawing arrows from her own quiver, while lesser mortals quivered, using excellent footwork and long range perceptive straight punches.
Wonderfully confounding received wisdom and mightily surprising Catherine, Mariana went into full scale attack mode in the third, snapping the Champion's head back driving her back, while proving an elusive target to nail, for nettled retaliation. Mariana's hand speed and punch selection were diverse and superior, but Catherine's power was also evident. The challenger's face was starting to swell and her nose was bleeding.
After four rounds all three announced scores had Mariana ahead, but there was still a long way to go, to the final stretch. Both ladies decided to test each other's chins in the sixth with a furious, sustained and prolonged exchange, thirty seconds from the bell. It was heart in the mouth time as both were stung and hurt, yet neither was willing to back off one bit.
The moment of truth in the seventh as Catherine launched a terrific attack to head and body. Mariana was staggered by a huge right hook, sagged, momentarily froze and appeared in deep trouble. Her nose was again dripping blood and the zip and zest seemed to have abandoned her. How utterly wrong we were. She dug deep to fight back with a defiant left right combination and her legion of fans gasped, breathing a long collective sigh of relief, as the chill of the night set in and started to bite.
Mariana celebrated the announced scores after the eighth, fighting and bustling her way to the winning post, with two superb left hooks, only to be jarred by jolting long left jabs by Catherine, and a titanic exchange in the ninth where she yet again held her own.
In the tenth and final round, Catherine who was set, grim and determined to go for a stoppage, but Barby's barbed jabs and agile movement frustrated this and she again landed to the head.
The scores were 98-91, 99-90 and 97-92. Mariana sank down to her knees and looked skyward. It was a starry, starry night! Catherine's head drooped ever so slightly and she acknowledged her defeat with a slight but perceptive nod.