Barrera-Tapia begins battle of featherweight elite

Oct 29, 2002 1:22 AM

   Big time fights return to Las Vegas in November, beginning with Saturday’s bout at the MGM Grand Casino between Marco Antonio Barrera and Johnny Tapia for the IBF featherweight title.

   Barrera is a solid —300 favorite over Tapia, who was stripped of the title after refusing to give ex-champ Manuel Medina a match. Tapia won a controversial majority decision against Medina.

   Barrera is not recognized as champion by any of the four major sanctioning bodies, but his April 2001 victory against Naseem Hamed gave him sole claim to superiority at 126 pounds, probably the toughest division in the sport.

   Two weeks later at Mandalay Bay, Eric Morales fights Paulie Ayala for the WBC featherweight championship. Las Vegas Sports Consultants listed Morales as a —330 favorite against Ayala, who is a +250 underdog.

   "Perfect," said Ayala, following a workout recently in Fort Worth, Tex. "I love being the underdog."

   In some places, Morales opened originally at —360, so Ayala has picked up some momentum.

   Mandalay Bay will also feature the Floyd Mayweather-Jose Luis Castillo rematch for the WBC Lightweight title. Mayweather won a controversial split decision earlier this year.

   UFC returns to MGM

   The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to MGM Grand on Friday, Nov. 22, featuring the light-heavyweight championship bout between Tito Ortiz and icon Ken Shamrock.

   The card also has Matt Hughes defending his welterweight belt for the third time against Gil Castillo. Ian Freeman and Mark Weir, two of Great Britain’s top fighters, are also on the fight card.

   Tickets range from $30 to $300.