This time bet on Barrera declaring
independence from Juarez

Sep 12, 2006 5:37 AM

Back in May, I warned against laying 4-1 on Marco Antonio Barrera against Rocky Juarez. I said that the erstwhile "Baby Faced Assassin" should win, but was certainly not worth the price.

He wasn’t.

In fact, the result was first announced as a draw. An error in the ringside arithmetic was discovered and it was changed to a Barrera victory. There are those who believe he got a gift decision. So Saturday’s rematch (Sept. 26) was born as "Too Close to Call."

I’ll call. This time, Barrera is only -160 or so and worth a bet.

These four months later, Juarez is still younger and stronger. Juarez should have the confidence of knowing he can play with the big boys. The fact, however, that there is a rematch says all you need to know about Barrera — even in his comparative dotage of 32.

Barrera could easily have moved on to one of his big matchups — a fourth with Erik Morales, a second with Manny Pacquiao. Instead, he feels there’s some unfinished business with the aggressive, hard-punching Texan. He had some stomach problems before the first fight with Juarez, but refuses to make any excuses. No need. Juarez is a tough hombre with KO power in both hands.

Juarez says Barrera "will be looking for revenge because I think he thinks he lost" the first meeting. Barrera says he hasn’t "felt this way in years." The great ones always have this hunger.

Juarez was able to stun Barrera several times in their May battle. But Barrera, whom I had ahead by a couple of points, showed the heart and guts that have made him one of the greatest fighters in Mexican history. It is fitting that he is fighting on Mexican Independence Day in Vegas.

Gonzalez vs Vazquez

It is also fitting that he is heading one of the best pay-per-view cards in recent history. There has been a dearth of good fights lately. Now we have three at the MGM Grand Arena.

There are two other title fights that, in themselves, are worth the price of admission. Two proud Mexicans meet in one. Jhonny Gonzalez, a bantamweight titlist, is moving up to 122 pounds to challenge Israel Vazquez, who is already talking about moving up to 126 next year.

Vazquez, who turns 29 on Christmas Day, must be considered a strong favorite, though I have not seen any odds on this fine matchup. He is the bigger man and the bigger puncher. Gonzalez, who celebrates his 25th birthday the day before the MGM Grand bout, is a good puncher himself. His aggressive style could put him in harm’s way here.

I certainly believe Vazquez, "El Magnifico," should win and retain his WBC junior featherweight title, but Johnny could spell trouble, certainly at an inflated price. But if it’s 3-1 or less, I would probably sit this one out.

Barrios vs Guzman

There’s a beauty of a third fight between two non-Mexicans. Jorge Barrios of Argentina, best remembered perhaps for almost being the first to defeat Brazil’s Acelino Freitas, defends his WBO 130-pound title against undefeated Joan Guzman of the Dominican Republic and now living in Brooklyn.

I haven’t seen any odds yet, but I suspect Guzman is where the smart money will be. The boy named Joan is moving up two weight divisions to challenge a guy whose only other loss besides Freitas was an early disqualification. Between junior lightweight defenses, he fights as a full lightweight.

Guzman, a 122-pound champion with 17 knockouts on his 25-0 record, is a marvelous boxer with tremendous speed and dexterity. Barrios can punch, knocking Freitas down in the eighth and 11th rounds and on his way to victory until getting nailed in the 11th and stopped in the 12th. I usually prefer speed to power.

This matchup should attract a lot of two-way action. I finally got to see Guzman earlier this year when he dominated a full lightweight in Javier Jauregui. For the first few rounds, he looked as if he belonged high in the pound-for-pound lists. Then he became kind of redundant, as if he had run out of ideas or steam.

He can’t afford a late letdown against the tough Barrios. If he does manage to outbox the Argentine for 12 rounds, I think we have a new star among the lighter weights. He would be someone worthy of Barrera, Morales and Pacquiao.

I’m almost willing to bet that Guzman succeeds. The caveat is that sometimes I wish so hard for talent to emerge that I am not always objective. But you knew that already.