Morales vs Barrera: Sit back and enjoy

Nov 23, 2004 7:30 AM

They’ve dubbed it, "Once and for All," and part of me hopes there is truth in advertising so that, once and for all, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera will fight to a conclusive end.

On the other hand, what would be so El Terrible if these bitter Mexican rivals never reach a decisive conclusion to their epic battles? I mean, in a couple of years, they’d have to do it all over again and boxing could certainly profit from matches of this high quality and excitement.

So far, only the judging has been questionable. And I don’t blame the judges. It’s pretty hard to separate the smaller Mexico City brawler/puncher/boxer from the elegant looking El Terrible. That’s Morales’ nickname from Tijuana, another example of the brawling, punching and boxing style that has made the first two fights such wonders.

They met at 122 pounds in 2000 and it was the fight of the year, a nonstop toe-to-toe struggle that somehow went to Morales, though it seemed Barrera had done a bit more, especially when he scored a 12th-round knockdown. They tried it again at 126 pounds two years later and this time the vitriolic prefight insults somehow led to a more tactical battle.

The rematch was fought at a pace that would leave Jack LaLanne exhausted, and the decision went, just as unpopularly, to Barrera. Many thought the judges, or fate, were evening out the score.

My feeling was that they should not be limited by 12 rounds, but made to fight until one drops. However, they

dislike each other so much, it may be neither would allow the other to have such smug satisfaction.

The third fight comes just in time for boxing fans to have a real reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving weekend. At 130 pounds, one would figure Morales may have the edge. He was about a 3-2 favorite in the early wagering, which I chalk up to the fact that Barrera last year was obliterated by the Filipino freak of nature, Manny Pacquiao.

Of course, losing to Pacquiao is hardly a disgrace. Barrera was going through an ugly managerial shift complicated by the revelation that long ago he had needed a brain operation to correct a genital defect. It was a lot of pressure for a man about to face a buzzsaw.

Since then, Barrera had little trouble defeating Paulie Ayala, but we should neither make too much or too little of that. Ayala was a natural 118-pounder, after all. It became his last payday and fight. Still, he gave Morales a bit more trouble a year earlier and, let’s face it, El Terrible has had a hole in his resume, too.

If Morales wins here, against the only man to have defeated him (combined with unification victories over 130-pound champions Jesus Chavez and Carlos (Famoso) Hernandez), he can stake a claim to be the 2004 fighter of the year.

But let us not forget how he struggled to beat Chavez, who hurt him with a right hand early on, then hurt his shoulder and became a one-armed fighter for the last 10 rounds. Give Chavez two hands that night, and "Once and for All" doesn’t happen. Hell, Morales- Hernandez doesn’t happen if El Terrible can’t get past Chavez.

But here we are and it is too difficult to make a pick with any real sense of assurance. Both have good left hands and though Morales is longer, Barrera’s jab may be sharper. Barrera, who began his career as the "Baby-Faced Assassin," modified his aggressive style to pick apart none other than the Prince of Featherweights, Naseem Hamed. The win occurred when Hamed was undefeated and talking of himself as better than Willie Pep and/or Sandy Saddler.

Not!

This was after Barrera was twice defeated by Junior Jones, who was so gone he was no match for Morales. In other words, I’m not sure past performances mean anything when it comes to these young men.

There is a natural animosity. People from the capital city are always looked upon as snobs by those from the hinterlands. My natural inclination in these matters is to always take the price.

If two men are basically equal, the underdog obviously has value. But I’m not sure I want to be looking for an edge. This bout at the MGM Grand Arena figures as one of those wonderful fights where we can take a night off and just sit back and enjoy Zale- Graziano III, Ali-Frazier III, Gatti-Ward III. I mean, why ruin the evening by having to worry about finances when you could be watching the fight of the year?with unification victories over 130-pound champions Jesus Chavez and Carlos (Famoso) Hernandez), he can stake a claim to be the 2004 fighter of the year.

But let us not forget how he struggled to beat Chavez, who hurt him with a right hand early on, then hurt his shoulder and became a one-armed fighter for the last 10 rounds. Give Chavez two hands that night, and "Once and for All" doesn’t happen. Hell, Morales- Hernandez doesn’t happen if El Terrible can’t get past Chavez.

But here we are and it is too difficult to make a pick with any real sense of assurance. Both have good left hands and though Morales is longer, Barrera’s jab may be sharper. Barrera, who began his career as the "Baby-Faced Assassin," modified his aggressive style to pick apart none other than the Prince of Featherweights, Naseem Hamed. The win occurred when Hamed was undefeated and talking of himself as better than Willie Pep and/or Sandy Saddler.

Not!

This was after Barrera was twice defeated by Junior Jones, who was so gone he was no match for Morales. In other words, I’m not sure past performances mean anything when it comes to these young men.

There is a natural animosity. People from the capital city are always looked upon as snobs by those from the hinterlands. My natural inclination in these matters is to always take the price.

If two men are basically equal, the underdog obviously has value. But I’m not sure I want to be looking for an edge. This bout at the MGM Grand Arena figures as one of those wonderful fights where we can take a night off and just sit back and enjoy Zale- Graziano III, Ali-Frazier III, Gatti-Ward III. I mean, why ruin the evening by having to worry about finances when you could be watching the fight of the year?