Barrera/Juarez II: the Desert Showdown

BY David A. Avila ON September 12, 2006
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It’s sunset for the old gunfighter Marco Antonio Barrera as he faces the itchy-trigger finger youngster Rocky Juarez who’s anxious to push the veteran off the pedestal.

For the second time in four months, Mexico City’s Barrera will meet Houston’s Juarez (25-2, 18 KOs) for the WBC junior lightweight title, but this time in Las Vegas. The fight card promoted by Golden Boy Promotions will be shown live on Saturday on HBO pay-per-view.

In their first meeting, Barrera’s experience in world title fights and before large crowds proved to be the edge in beating off Juarez’s strength and youth.

“He’s very aggressive,” said Barrera (62-4, 42 KOs). “He deserved to get a rematch.”

Despite jumping out to a quick lead, Barrera found himself taking more punches than he had in years. The bout ended in a split-decision win for the bloodied and battered Barrera, but only after discovering that one of the scorekeepers miscalculated one of the three scorecards.

“I thought I won the fight,” said Juarez, 26, but during the bout that took place on May 20, his trainer advised him he needed a knockout to win. “I know what I can do this time.”

Those familiar with Barrera know that the veteran prizefighter who’s captured world titles in three different weight divisions always improves the second time around. There was the technical knockout loss to Junior Jones that saw the rematch end up in a much closer fight. Then came the first classic bout with Tijuana’s Erik Morales in 2000 that became one of the greatest in boxing history. But the two subsequent rematches in 2002 and 2004 resulted in relatively easy wins for Barrera.

“I’m working on some things in the mountains near where I live,” said Barrera, 32, who for years trained in Big Bear Lake with his team of Japanese prizefighters. “I will be better prepared.”

Juarez has been chasing the big fight for years since winning the silver medal in the 2000 Olympics in Australia. Though he’s lost his last two of his last four fights, he’s gained an arena full of experience.

“I know he can fight kind of dirty,” said Juarez, who is promoted by Main Events. “Barrera had more experience than me, that was the difference the first time. Now I know what he brings.”

Texas has always developed fighters with that gunfighter mentality – boxers who love to trade knockout punches like so many bullets. They’re always eager to step outside to see who’s quicker on the draw or able to take it to the chin.

Back in the 1980s there were Texans like the Canizales brothers Orlando and Gaby, the Ayala brothers Tony and Mike, followed by marauding bombers like Jesus Chavez, Paulie Ayala and Juan Diaz.

Texans love to fight.

But who says Mexico City prizefighters are any easier?

Today a handful of boxers from the Mexican capital own world titles in various divisions straddle the top levels of boxing. Aside from Barrera there’s Juan Manuel Marquez, his little brother Rafael Marquez, Israel Vazquez, Martin Castillo, Martin Honorio, Jhonny Gonzalez, and new flyweight titleholder Omar Nino.

That’s a lot of talent from one city but there are more than 20 million people living in “Distrito Federal.”

“The last time I traveled to Mexico City I must have seen about five street fights when I was driving around,” said Raul Garcia, a boxing fan and salesman. “And they don’t fight wildly, they throw combinations.”

The master gunfighter

At the age of 15 Barrera began fighting professionally in Mexico City. Though his parents were middle class, a rare sight in Mexico, the fighter known as the “Baby-Faced Assassin” was challenging boxers from the roughest parts of Mexico City.

“I told my parents that I wanted to try it,” said Barrera, whose parents are involved in the motion picture industry. “After a while it was in my blood.”

After three years fighting in the Mexican capital, he was discovered by California boxing promoters and signed to move north to Los Angeles. He quickly became a crowd favorite with his take-no-prisoners style at the Inglewood Forum. In 1995 he captured his first title against Daniel Jimenez at the Arrowhead Pond. Since then it’s been one challenge after another against some of the greatest fighters in the last 17 years such as Kennedy McKinney, Naseem Hamed, Johnny Tapia, Manny Pacquiao and others.

Barrera had endured punches and all-out wars with some of the best prizefighters in the world. Often his fights were bloody enough to make grown men squeamish. But after the fetching war with Morales in 2000, he changed his style and integrated more boxing. He began using skills no one knew he had.

Today the Mexico City gladiator fights more with his head, as he did against Hamed in 2001 who was the much more powerful slugger. In that fight, Barrera gave him a boxing lesson and baffled the hard-hitting British bomber.

Juarez was barely nine years old when Barrera first entered the professional ranks.

“It was exciting when I first learned I was going to fight the great Marco Antonio Barrera,” said Juarez. “But now that we’ve fought, he’s just another fighter to me. Now it’s my turn.”

Barrera is known as one of the top three or four prizefighters in the world and considered by many a master at his craft.

“Barrera is very smart,” said Freddie Roach, trainer of Pacquiao who beat him three years ago. “He never does the same thing twice. He’s very crafty.”

Nonetheless, Juarez believes he can beat Barrera to the draw and take the world title.

“I’ve been working hard all my life for this,” Juarez said. “It’s time now.”

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