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Morales Barrera Fight Reports
CBZ Staff

February 20, 2000

By Chris Bushnell

The 122 pound showdown between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera promised so much that one began to wonder if the fight could even come close to matching expectations. Boxer vs. Brawler, Rising Star vs. Former Star, Tiajuana vs. Mexico City. It was the type of fight that on paper suggested fireworks of the highest order. But unlike so many marquee matchups of the last year, this one delivered. From the opening bell to the final punch, Morales vs. Barrera was about as exciting as it gets. The fight had a little of everything: rapidly shifting momentum, clean punches aplenty, blood, guts and controversy. Seven weeks into 2000 and we may have already seen the Fight of the Year.

The bout began with a bang. Rushing to meet each other at center ring, Barrera and Morales quickly launched their biggest weapons. Barrera swung his debilitating left hook to the body and head, immediately finding his target. Pursuing Morales across the ring, Barrera quickly established the pac e of the bout. Morales soon fired back with his trademark right hand, pounding the face of his opponent early and often. Back and forth they fought. The intensity was overwhelming. Mostly taking turns, Morales and Barrera threw and landed gigantic power punches. As each blow landed, the dueling factions in the crowd raised their voices to a fever pitch. Although each man had their moments, it was Barrera who exceeded expectations as he pressed the action and swiveled Morales’ head with his hooks.

Barrera continued his attack in the second round, clubbing Morales to the body repeatedly. Morales, whether influenced by machismo or survival instincts, fought back gamely. Needing more room to fire his long shots, Morales found himself crowded by Barrera’s bullrush and was drawn into the type of brawl he had trained to avoid. Forgoing the jab in an effort to win some respect, Morales traded with Barrera for much of the round. Looking stronger, landing cleaner, and battering Morales with his hook, Barrera was fighting with confidence as the second round came to an end.

Erik Morales needed to shift the momentum of the fight already. Although Morales was faring well in the trenches, his trouble making 122 and his superior boxing skills dictated that he try something different. Pumping his jab across the distance, Morales found some success in round three by keeping Barrera and extra step back. Shuffling side to side, Morales forced Barrera to lower his output by keeping him out of range. Through this round and the following, Barrera countered by focusing almost exclusively on Morales’ thin frame. Although he was unable to put his hands on Morales as often as he had in the first two rounds, Barrera made sure that if he touched Morales at all, it was with strafing shots to the ribs. Committed to slowing Morales down, Barrera invested in punches that would weaken Morales late in the fight.

The fifth round was as exciting as it gets. As both men picked up the pace again, Barrera punched Morales back to the ropes and then unloaded with a left hook that rocked Morales. Shaken by the punch, Morales suddenly came alive, letting his hands go. Adjusting his straight right hand, Morales now hooked the punch around Barrera’s tight guard and landed repeated shots to Barrera’s right ear. Barrera stopped throwing as Morales walked him down, punching and landing all the way. Referee Mitch Halpern began moving in close to the action, as Morales was teeing off on Barrera while Marco only rarely returned a punch. But Morales could not put Barrera away, and after over a minute of nonstop punching, Morales needed to stop and take a breath. When he did, Barrera took his turn. Firing back some wild left hooks, Barrera caught Morales flush on the face, sending him back to the ropes on stiff legs. Barrera now let his own hands go, savagely beating Morales with perfectly timed power punches. Blood was pouring out of Morales’ nose as Barrera punished him. When the bell rang to end the round, the crowd screamed their delight. It was boxing nirvana.

Both fighters spent a lot of themselves in the fifth, and in turn took much of the sixth round off. While Morales had finished the fifth round looking weak, Barrera did not rush to test what he had left. Instead, Morales jabbed through a slow paced round as the fighters reached the bout’s halfway point. Morales won the round but looked to be losing the war. His face was beginning to reshape under the force of Barrera’s fists, his nose was bleeding badly, and Barrera’s body shots had weakened him. He would have to fight twice as hard just to survive.

The seventh round saw Morales dig deep. Breathing through an open mouth, Morales’ will power was amazing, as he tried his hardest to simply keep throwing punches. For most of the stanza, Morales threw weakened punches at Barrera. While the snap of his blows was missing, the sheer output he managed to conjure up was enough to hold an also tiring Barrera off. The round closed, however, with Barrera again getting Morales against the ropes and landing the hook. Cracking into Morales’ head, Barrera staggered the WBC champion into the ropes at the final bell, even getting in an extra shot just after the bell ended the round.

Barrera came on again in the eighth round, repeatedly battering Morales back to the ropes. Once trapped, Morales would try to bob and weave, but kept getting caught with flush punches. On several occasions, Morales was trapped on the ropes as Barrera fired away, and on several occasions Morales looked to be on the verge of going down. Barrera landed a myriad of punches to the body in between head snapping shots to the head, but still Morales would not fall. After the round had ended, Morales could barely sit up straight in his corner. Looking exhausted, beaten and discouraged, Morales sat in marked contrast to the stoic Barrera.

The ninth round got even worse for Morales, as Barrera unleashed his most consistent and ferocious beating in this round. Staggering Morales again and again, Barrera pounded Morales from one corner to another. Marco’s hooks kept landing precisely on target, along with a number of crisp right hands for good measure. Morales nose again began gushing blood, staining Barrera’s back. Although Morales managed to cut Barrera on his left cheek with a chopping right hand, he took more than his share of lumps. At the close of the round, Barrera again looked to have his man in position for a devastating finish, and again Morales somehow found the ability to survive.

As Morales came out for the tenth round, he looked bad. Swelling over both eyes was affecting his vision, his breathing was labored from exhaustion and hampered by the bleeding in his nose, and Barrera’s body shots repeatedly sent him into mini retreats when they landed. Morales, however, would not give anything away. As Barrera closed in for the kill, Morales simply kept throwing. When he did, Barrera would often stop, looking for a counter. When Morales was able to put enough punches together in succession, Barrera’s counter never came. Again, however, Barrera staggered Morales with brutal hooks on the ropes, and again Morales refused to go down. It was one of the most amazing displays of desire in recent memory. Despite Barrera’s pounding, Morales was shaken but never dropped.

The eleventh round was closer, but only because the urgency was growing on Morales’ part. Coming out of his corner after again being barely able to sit up on his stool, Morales refused to move and box and went to war. Barrera obliged. Trading punch for punch, Morales looked sapped of strength. Barrera walked through his blows to land his own, and when he landed he saw results. Several flush Barrera body shots in the eleventh forced Morales to shuffle away instead of fight, and a Barrera hook upstairs opened a cut over Morales’ right eye that trickled blood into his line of vision. As Barrera took another round, he looked stronger and more determined going into the final round.

Still the fight was close. Both corners let their men know that the outcome of the fight would likely be determined by the final round. In a fight that was already too close to call, the final three minutes meant everything. Both men began the final frame toe to toe. Morales fired and Barrera fired. Morales landed and Barrera landed. The crowd was hoarse but cheered anyway. It was pure excitement. Midway through the round, however, more Barrera bodyshots hurt Morales and weakened his stance. As the two men came together, Barrera threw a left hook that missed over a ducking Morales. Getting under the punch worked for Morales, but his weak legs betrayed him. As Barrera’s hip followed through from the hook, it bumped a wobbly Morales, who reached out to find balance and touched his glove and knee to the canvas. Although Mitch Halpern was on top of the action, he called the downing a knockdown and began administering the mandatory eight count. Although the call was incorrect, it was not an easy call. It had, in fact, appeared that Barrera had scored a clean knockdown, until replays showed that no punch had landed. But the damage was done. A discouraged Morales knew that he might have blown the fight. After the count of eight, Morales rushed Barrera in an effort to get some payback. It never came. Although both men finished toe to toe, Morales could not land another big punch before the bout ended.

It appeared as though Barrera had won the fight. Although many rounds were difficult to score, and the fight had stretch after stretch of even exchanges, it was Morales who was consistently wobbled by Barrera’s blows. Furthermore Marco Antonio had apparently swept most of the second half of the fight, including a final round knockdown that may have been a bad call but was nonetheless ruled an official knockdown.

When Michael Buffer announced a "split decision", however, most boxing fans knew what might be coming next. 114-113 for Barrera, 114-113 for Morales....and an inexplicable 115-112 for Morales. No denying this was a close fight, but a three point victory for Morales seemed completely unreasonable, especially given the two point final round Barrera had earned. The culprit: Las Vegas crony Dalby Shirley. That’s right...the same Dalby Shirley who had Antuofermo over Hagler, had a draw in Leonard-Hearns II, gave DelaHoya a six point victory over Whitaker, and the list goes on and on.

After the fight, Morales (36-0/28) looked like he had taken the type of beating that ends careers. His face was bruised, scuffed, swollen, cut, and discolored. Admitting that he was hanging on for dear life at several moments, Morales confirmed that he would no longer fight at 122. Now lined up for a shot at the WBC featherweight title vacated by Naseem Hamed, Morales’ move up in weight will come with even more lucrative paydays, possibly including one with The Prince himself. It remains to be seen how Morales will be affected by this war. He may come out stronger and wiser, having shown his willingness to walk through fire to grab victory...but the likelihood is that he may look older, slower and diminished. Very few fighters can sustain the type of beating Morales took and come back unchanged.

In his corner, Barrera (49-3/36) was devastated. His quiet demeanor did not betray his disappointment, but his words did. Claiming the he had won the fight, Barrera dismissed Morales as "not that good". Again losing his WBO junior feather title, Barrera’s career may not have been set back as much as first seems. Although no longer a champion, and lacking the political backing to get a quick rematch, Barrera still showed himself as a worthy opponent. Unlike previously thought, Barrera’s best days were not behind him, and his exciting style guarantees that we will see him again

Although the final decision left plenty to be desired, the fight itself exceeded even the highest expectations. The bout featured ferocious brawling, magnificent courage, and heart stopping excitement. Barrera-Morales was a fight that will not soon be forgotten.

.....Chris Bushnell

Morales vs. Barrera
By Alan Taylor

Just when you think it's safe to be cynical about boxing, along comes a fight which tries hard to dispel the bad taste left by the not-so-superfights and the bad decisions of recent times.

Just when you think it's safe to be less cynical about boxing given the quality and passion of the fight you've just watched, along comes a decision which tries hard to dispel any notion you might have of the sport pulling itself out of the gutter.

Morales v Barrera was simply the best fight I have witnessed in years. The story of the fight was simple too. The bell rang to start the first round; the fighters began to hit each other; twelve rounds later the bell rang to end the fight; the fighters stopped hitting each other. There was no clinching, no fouling, no wrestling a-la Naseem Hamed, no standing off just in case the other guy hits me a-la Lennox Lewis, no ear biting. Morales and Barrera pummelled each other with sharp accurate punches for three minutes of every round.

The fourth, ninth and twelfth rounds could all be nominated for round of the year. They swung to and fro, first Barrera on top then Morales. The two men proved equals in passion, skill, grit and commitment. The stamina they displayed was astounding - imagine Henry Armstrong fighting himself! Where there was a difference, however, it was crucial - for me if not for Dalby Shirley.

5-1 underdog Barrera displayed a greater talent for blocking potential fight-ending shots from his opponent. Time and again he would block or slip Morales' shots and come back to hurt him. Several times, as he graciously admitted afterwards, Morales was in trouble. Yes, when he was reeling and in danger of being stopped he would come back with hard shots of his own. But Barrera never appeared to be hurt. He made a mockery of the oddsmakers and appeared to take the fight albeit closely.

To be honest this was a contest that neither man deserved to lose. It was a display of all that boxing can be. It reminded me of all the reasons I love this sport. The fight was thrilling and left me feeling exhilarated and proud to have watched it. But then came the decision.

Now this was not the worst decision I have ever seen but it was still a bad one. This was a fight that perhaps deserved a draw. As I have said no-one really deserved to lose but if anyone deserved to win it was Barrera. Morales, for all that he contributed - and his contribution was immense - just did not win the fight. Dalby Shirley, who awarded the fight to Morales by three points despite the last round presumably being a 10-8 round for Barrera (although the knock-down he scored appeared to be a slip by Morales). Despite the closeness of the action I see no way that Shirley could contrive to come up with this result.

So I'll probably return to my cynicism and when I look back to Morales-Barrera I'll remember 'a fantastic fight but.........'

Earlier in the evening in Dagenham, England WBO light-middleweight champion Harry Simon retained his title with a one-sided victory over Enrique Areco of Argentina who retired in the tenth. Namibian Simon is due to appear on the next Tyson three-ring circus.

A thrilling third round stoppage of Paul Samuels allowed Wayne Alexander to claim the British light-middleweight crown. The fight was Hagler-Hearns without the skill. Samuels had Alexander reeling in the first but Wayne came back with superior firepower to hurt Samuels in the second and finished the contest when he knocked his opponent through the ropes with a minute to go in the third.

Bruno on Boxing
By Joe Bruno - Former Vice President of the New York Boxing Writers and the International Boxing Writers

Why is it every time boxing has a chance to shroud itself in the flag of glory, instead it shoots itself in the foot?

In an early favorite for Fight of the Year, and biggest highway robbery since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, HBO and Top Rank house fighter junior featherweight champion Erik Morales, who was battered from pillar to post for most of the fight, was given a gift split decision against former junior featherweight champion Antonio Barrera.

The Las Vegas outlaws who perpetrated this heist were Carol Castelano, who scored the fight 114-113, and Dalby Shirley with a 115-112 scorecard (Shirley somehow gave Morales eight rounds). Duane Ford scored the fight 114-113 for Barrera, which was still much too close for anyone with two functioning eyes. This reporter''s scorecard had it 116-111 (8-4 in rounds) for Barrera, which surprisingly matched the scorecard of HBO house judge Harold 'The Hedger' Lederman. If Howling Harold doesn't watch his step, he could soon be out of a job.

The fight was hyped by promoter Bob Arum as being the "Mexican equivalent of Hagler vs Hearns" and for once Bullspit Bob was telling the truth. It was a classic Mexican border war, with both fighters bravely flinging punches from all angles throughout most of the fight. Yet it was Barrera who landed the harder punches all night long, and on several occasions Morales seemed to be one punch away from kissing the canvas.

If there was any doubt as to who was winning, Barrera put an exclamation point on his victory by flooring Morales with a series of left hooks in the twelfth and final round. HBO''s dopey duo of ‘Jumble' Jim Lampley and Larry 'The Wig' Merchant both immediately wigged out and said the knockdown was a slip.

Not true.

Barrera had just landed two crunching left hooks that sent Morales reeling across the ring. Morales then ducked under a third left hook, and his legs just plain gave out. That last left hook had surely missed its mark, but it was the previous two left hooks that had caused Morales to kneel shakily on the canvas.

Countless time we have seen fighters hurt and backpedaling. Then after a barrage of missed punches and half shoves, that fighter goes down, and a knockdown is credited to his opponent, and rightfully so. Just because the last punch missed doesn't mean the knockdown was a slip, which was exactly what happened in the twelfth round last night. The knockdown was a delayed reaction to what had just transpired just seconds before, and the ref Mitch Halpern was correct in ruling it a knockdown. After the last round, and before the decision was announced, Lederman explained the delayed reaction sequence that had caused the knockdown to Lampley and Merchant, but his words fell on deaf ears.

Deaf dumb and blind. That just about sums up 'Jumble' Jim and Larry 'The Wig' to a T. But even these two moaning morons also had Barrera winning the damn fight, albeit by a slim margin. So all three HBO stooges thought Morales had been beaten. Lots of good that did for Barrera.

After the fight, Morales admitted to Merchant he was hurt and wobbly several times during the bout. Through swollen eyes and lips Morales said, 'I'll give him (Barrera) a rematch but only at 126 pounds.'

Barrera was dignifiedly defiant when also asked about a possible rematch. "There's no need for a rematch because I beat him this time," Barrera said. "It was my type of fight all the way, and I did what I wanted to do. I don't know what I have to do to win in Las Vegas. This is the second time this has happened to me, but the people know who won."

"We would love a rematch," said Lou DiBella, boxing executive for HBO. No kidding Loopy Lou. But what good is a great fight when the lying Las Vegas judges, who know who the house wants to win, gives the fight to the fighter under long term contract to HBO, no matter how badly he is battered in the ring?

Barrera fired one parting shot at HBO before Larry threw it back to Curly and Moe. Barrera told HBO, "Your champion is not that good." True, and don''t think featherweight champ Prince Naseem Hamed didn't notice that too. Look for Hamed to sign quickly on the dotted line for a fight against Morales. That fight should be exciting too, that is, if Morales has anything left after the beating he took last night.

Morales edges out Barrera in Mexican showdown

By BoxingRules

One match was all it took, to make us look back on HBO Boxing After Dark's four years and want more... the same impression that was given to us when the series started.

Ironically, it was in February of 1996 when Marco Antonio Barrera started the B.A.D. late-night wars, as he dropped Kennedy McKinney five times and was taken down once himself before a last-round blowout.

Barrera/McKinney, during the single-fight card, was voted on as the Best Boxing After Dark match since it started on that memorable night.

Tonight, however, many fights and stories later... Barrera would be on the losing end. But Barrera was not a loser, tonight, despite what the scorecards read. As Jim Lampley put out during the excitement of the battle, this was undefeated Barrera, the Marco Antonio Barrera at it's best. As it was, in November of the same year he did battle with Kennedy McKinney, Junior Jones would upset the Mexican sensation with a fourth-round knockout/DQ victory (it was never determined which one it was because Barrera's cornermen entered the ring prior to the end of the fourth round). This would take alot out of Barrera, but in April he would meet "Poison" Jones again. Barrera/Jones II was alot more competitive than the first meeting, with the deciding factor coming after a point deduction for a controversial low blow. This seemed to be very much similar to tonight, when Barrera would attempt to take back to Mexico City two championship belts at Jr Featherweight against his arch-rival Erik Morales, and he almost did it. Erik "El Terrible" Morales had a story almost completely opposite to "The Baby-Faced Assassin", as Barrera used to be referred to as. Morales turned professional at Age 16 and quickly jumped into the professional ranks, scoring wins over journeymen such as Hector Acero-Sanchez and Enrique Jupiter. Morales was ranked #1 by the WBC for the Jr Featherweight title for over a year, a belt he would later get, held during this entire time by Daniel Zaragoza, a veteran wonder also from Mexico. Finally, Morales was granted his opportunity at Zaragoza and capitalized with a highly-competitive 11th round stoppage of the 39-year-old.

Since each of their career climaxes, Morales had made eight defenses of the WBC Jr Featherweight strap, mostly against inferior opposition except a four-round dissection of one Junior Jones. But all during this time his mind was set on Barrera. In seperate interviews, they found themselves clinging to a sparring session where a knockdown reported by Barrera was highly-disputed in Morales' mind.

Barrera himself had come back strong since the Junior Jones fiasco, he had won six bouts and 1 no-contest. He had regained the WBO title he had lost to Jones but didn't seem to have the fire that possessed him before.... we saw it tonight.

At the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, we saw Marco Antonio Barrera bring the best out of himself in a spirited contest with Morales. Both men had high moments, with Morales winning alot of the early rounds despite a great opening round by Barrera. Barrera came back in the mid/late rounds. As it turns out, Morales had a single-point edge going into the final round. But a disputed knockdown, in any way, shape, or form, changed that. Barrera landed no punch but the unbeaten Mexican found himself in the first knockdown of his career.

My final tally was 114-113 for Barrera, but it could have gone either way. For the record, Carol Castellano had it for Morales and Duane Ford had it for Barrera with identical scores of 114-113 while Dalby Shirley scored it 115-112 for Erik.

Erik Morales is now the WBC & WBO Jr Featherweight titlist, but not for long as he plans to move up to Featherweight for a chance at Naseem Hamed's dance card. His record now is 36-0 with 28 kayo's. He won this battle that he remarked as personal prior to the match.

What is next for Barrera? Now at 49-3 with 36 stops, he has a chance of once again taking over at 122 pounds now that Morales will make his exit... but can a return bout be on his mind?

One thing is for sure.... we'd all like to see it.

February 20, 2000

Great Fight, But Unpopular Decision?
Morales Out-points Barrera In Razor-Thin War.
By Francis Walker

In what was an excellent display of passion, warfare, and purity of the sport, Eric Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera fought the "Fight of the Year 2000," last Saturday. On the night February 19, at the beautiful Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Morales (36-0, 28KOs), making the ninth defense of the WBC junior featherweight championship, was awarded a brutal split-decision victory against two-time, WBO 122-pound champ, Marco Antonio Barrera (49-3, 38KOs).

Morlaes-Barrera, promoted by Top Rank, Inc., was televised live on HBO Sports, celebrating four years of "Boxing After Dark."

In a close 12-round war, all three judges scored the bout 114-113 Barrera, 114-113 Morales, and 115-112 Morales respectfully. Despite the fact Barrera had allegedly pulled way with the fight by earning a knockdown that should have been ruled a slip. Nonetheless, Morales received the nod instead.

Overall, Morales landed 319 to Barrera's 299 total punches; 290 connected power shots to Barrera's 272. Morales may have even launched more punches (868 to 619) than Barrera, but Barrera's punches were the most effective.

Barrera and Morales swapped punches from the start of the opening bell. Morales, who took this bout as a personal vendetta, thew nothing but the power-punches the entire fight. Barrera, recognized for having one of the best chins in boxing, approached this bout in a more professional manner. Ceasing every opportunity to counter effectively, Barrera staggered Morales backward with hard two-handed combinations to his head, highlighted by hard left-hooks to his body.

Both Barrera and Morlaes showed well, standing "toe-to-toe" with one another for twelve rounds. However, it was Barrera, who had the most snap in his punches - the harder combinations. Barrera's constant body punches kept Morales going backward through the majority of the action-packed, intense exchanges from the inside.

During the first several rounds of the show, Barrera would stun Morales with body shots going backward, adding hard left and right-hands to his head. However, toward the end of the rounds, Morlaes, who would just throw punches (not necessarily landing), flurried toward the last 30 seconds of each round, punctuating its closing moments.

While it appeared that Barrera was winning each round of the contest, Morales, the less accurate, but just as busy as Barrera would use his hand speed and hard right hands to keep Barrera in check.

In the ninth, Morlaes clearly dominated the session by landing hard rights to Barerra's chin. Although it was close, Barrera barely had just one cut - a slash across his left cheekbone. As opposed to the several cuts and puffiness around Morlaes' two eyelids and his mouth. Morales' kisser was cut-up like a grater.

Make no mistake, Barrera was winning the bout until he ran out of thunder and allowed Morales' mean right-hands (despite having little snap), to step one-half car ahead in an extremely close race for the championship.

Barerra did not shoot thunder until the second half of the eleventh, but soundly closed the show in the final round; forcing a fatigued Morales to slip that was immediately rules a knockdown as stated earlier.

Morales was in too bad of condition and was clearly wrong to have admitted that he beast Barrera. Barrera ruled, but will probably have to wait a while before he gets a shot against the biggest little-man in boxing today, Prince Naseem Hamed. It was a shame, it was a tragedy Barrera may probably not even receive a rematch unless of course Hamed, who faces Vuyani Bungu in two weeks, opt not to fight Morales.

On the flip side, Morlaes-Barrera was indeed a Great War for the ages!

Commentary by Rick Farris

I have always been partial to Mexican boxers. The Morales-Barrera war is a perfect of example of why this is true. During my 35 years of involvment in boxing I have been around some of the greatest champions to come from south of the border and I learned early that when you pit two exceptional Mexican boxers in a world title fight there is going to be fireworks. The boxers will be fighting for something more important than a world championship, they'll be fighting for the honor of being the best in Mexico. It takes them to a higher level. People love Roy Jones Jr. and I admit he has incredible skills, but how can they watch two men put on a war like Morales & Barrera did last night and believe they are getting their money's worth watching Jones. These guys fight with something that isn't common in boxing any more, honor. I wasn't surprised by the fight I saw last night, I expected it.

Rick Farris


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