By Jake Donovan
Upon the completion of his aborted tune-up fight last Saturday, the word out of Mexico over the weekend was whether or not the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera would be able to go through with a March 14 showdown with Amir Khan.
In light of the latest rumor to come from south of the border, the question that must now be asked is, just how far were Barrera’s handlers willing to go to secure the March date in England?
Mexican newspaper Reforma ran separate stories which may or may not shed some light on why Barrera’s originally scheduled opponent, John Nolasco of the Dominican Republic, was a no-show at the weigh-in on Friday. The publication quoted Rosa Diaz, Nolasco’s agent, as saying that Jorge Barrera, Marco’s brother and trainer, contacted the Dominican’s camp in efforts to arrange a dive.
“He said, ‘We need to make sure that Nolasco doesn’t make it past the fourth,” Diaz claimed, before going on to claim that there was no way the fighter would participate in a fixed fight. According to the Dominican boxing agent, Nolasco’s refusal to play ball was the reason he was scratched from the card, not that he simply failed to show up for the weigh-in.
With no opponent on Friday, and a large contingent of ticket holders turning out for no other reason than to catch Barrera in action, last ditch efforts were made to secure an opponent. One was found in Freudis Rojas, a Cuban journeyman based out of Las Vegas, who just so happened to be on hand or the event in Jalisco, Mexico.
It was said that Barrera was reluctant to go through with the fight, as he was prepared for Nolasco but knew nothing of Rojas, other than that he carried a record of 1-7-1. His handlers assured him that everything would be OK, but it obviously proved untrue.
The script containing alleged attempted fix in the Nolasco matchup apparently never made its way to Rojas’ locker room. He went out in less than four, but not before slicing open Barrera’s face with a blatant headbutt that earned him a disqualification loss.
Team Barrera dismissed the possibility of the cut causing a postponement, in a conference call on Wednesday afternoon. It was insisted that all systems are go and that the cut he suffered in the January 31 bout with late replacement Freudis Rojas will not cause a delay in the promotion or his training camp.
They’ve also dismissed the claims made by Nolasco’s agent Rosa Diaz, with Barrera believing it was nothing more than a lowly attempt to smear his name while desperately trying to save face for their own guy’s no-show.
For the moment, few seem to believe the story, one that for separate reasons conjures memories of Sergio Medina’s insistence that he was told to throw his fight with Juan Manuel Lopez late last year in Las Vegas. The difference there was that Medina was on his own, with not even his fight agent Samson Lewkowicz believing the tale to be true. It was eventually revealed that the Argentinean fighter made up the story, rather than admitting that he flat out put up zero effort in his opening round knockout loss.
Time will tell whether or not Team Nolasco’s claim carries a shred of validity. The matter is being investigated by Mexican officials, including Jose Sulaiman and his Mexico-based World Boxing Council sanctioning organization. Sulaiman was quoted by Reforma on Wednesday claiming that he had a hard time believing the story to be true, but felt the claim was enough to launch an investigation.
Calls to both fighters’ camps Wednesday evening went unreturned.
(Thanks to Boxing Times Blue Corner editor Paul Magno, who provided Boxingscene.com with a news tip regarding this story, even if it remains an unconfirmed rumor for the moment).
Jake Donovan is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Comments/questions can be submitted to