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Mourning the Death of Venezuelen Boxer Carlos Barreto
Joe Koizumi

Oct. 9, 1999

CARACAS, VENEZUELA-My head wasn't clear due to the jet lag as I just arrived at Las Vegas to serve as TV commentator the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad fight some 5 days before the Fight of the Millennium. My head was suddenly electrified and became clear, when my friend Akihiko Honda mentioned a possibility of my boy Joma Gamboa replacing a WBA No.1 ranked minimumweight contender Jose Garcia in his fight with Venezuelan Noel Arambulet for the vacant WBA 105-pound title on Oct. 9. "Oh, yes, I accept. Definitely. We'll fight," I replied with joy. After I contacted Joma's trainer Juanito Ablaca and Joma himself, we confirmed our participation in the 7th "KO A LAS DROGAS."

I left the WBC Convention in Moscow on Oct. 1, a day earlier than the final session, and arrived at Tokyo early on Oct. 2. I then left for Hiroshima to serve as matchmaker of the OPBF super-welter title bout on Oct. 4, where Kookyul Song kept his regional throne by stopping Japanese challenger Hiroki Tomi in the 11th round. Tomi was hostpitalized due to his dehydration, though MRI or CT Scan found nothing wrong in the Japanese boxer. I stayed at the hospital until after midnight to take care of him along with Mr. Takao Maruki, his manager, and left Hiroshima for Tokyo on Oct. 5. It took five hours by a super-bullet train from Hiroshima to Tokyo. I hurriedly dealt with most significant faxes or e-mails that day, and flied Narita Airport for Caracas on Oct. 6.

You may show more interests in the passing of Venezuelan prospect Carlos Barreto than in the WBA minimum elimination bout between Arambulet and my boy Gamboa, so I will give my priority in writing to the former.

CARLOS BARRETO, WBA No.5 ranked 122-pounder, was a bright ex-amateur star, who failed to win the WBA super-bantam crown from Nestor Garza on a come-from-behind TKO defeat in Las Vegas on May 8. Barreto, an elongated and stylish boxer, tasted his first defeat, but was regarded still as one of the most promising boxers in Venezuela.

Barreto, 12-1-1, 9 KOs before this fight, was held to a hard-fought draw by compatriot Jose Luis Valbuena in Caracas on Feb. 28 of this year. Juan Santana, Barreto's manager, analyzed this draw rooting from their overconfidence and underestimation of Valbuena.

Meanwhile, I, as the matchmaker, already booked Carlos Barreto in a semi-final of the forthcoming WBA super-bantam title bout between Nestor Garza and Japanese Kozo Ishii, in Nagoya on Nov. 21, against Mexican Agustin Lorenzo, who unfortunately suffered a hand fracture before his departure for Japan to serve as sparring partner for Ishii. Barreto had executed a promotional agreement with Japanese Don Akihiko Honda, who coordinated the Garza vs. Ishii bout. I watched the rematch of Barreto and Valbuena besides Mr. Honda with great interests.

Both were tall and lanky Venezuelans. Valbuena, a lefty boxer with an also fine mark of 15-1-1-1NC, 8 KOs before this fight, and Barreto fought on even terms in the beginning of the fight. But Carreto looked frustrated at the puzzling southpaw style of Valbuena in the first three rounds.

But the more skillful Barreto gradually took the leadoff as he scored sharp straight rights to the game opponent from the 4th onward. I thought that Barreto would win that fight and come to Japan, as scheduled.

Though Barreto dominated following rounds by a close margin, Valubuena kept on stalking the Fancy Dan. This fight was held after the triple main events to be telecast by Radio Caracas-between 6 pm through 9 pm-that showed Antonio Cermeno vs. Yober Ortega, Hector Camacho Jr. vs. somebody, and Arambulet vs. Gamboa. After the TV program for three hours was over, a 4-rounder followed before this Barreto vs. Valbuena fight. I remember that it started after 9:30 pm, probably at about 9:45 pm, and abruptly ended at about 10:30 pm, as described below.

"Now Barreto is going to win this fight," I said to Mr. Honda, who nodded positively. I myself was thirsty, as I often shouted to Joma Gamboa to throw more punches. My friend Mr. Rafael Moron, the manager of Arambulet who beat Gamboa, kindly ordered some bottles of Coca Cola. In the 7th round of the fight, I had my concern more on the Cokes than the monotonous fight.

In the 8th round, it became a rough-and-tumble battle, because Valbuena harshly attacked Barreto, who kept on retreating to avert his opponent's wild shots. Barreto sometimes grabbed the aggressor's hands, but Valbuena continued to hit the belly of the lanky Venezuelan. Barreto, seemingly still leading on points, visibly slowed down and became weakened. The 9th round followed the similar pattern with Valbuena chasing the footworker Barreto, who seldom throw effective punches only to try to grab his opponent.

In the fatal 10th, the lefty Valbuena forced Barreto to the corner and then put his right hand around his neck and pulled him down to the canvas. It wasn't a southpaw right hook but illegal tactics. Barreto might have had his head hit with the canvas, and stayed prone for a while. Referee Tommy Thomas, Trinidado Tobago, ordered a deduction of a point from Valbuena, and also ordered them to resume fighting upon his confirmation that Barreto barely pulled himself up. But Barreto wasn't in such a shape to go on. He looked powerless. Valbuena might have been disqualified then and there. Valbuena went for a KO with a barrage of punches, and Barreto was unable to defend himself. The referee then declared a halt to the affair where the tide abruptly turned, and awarded a 10th round TKO win and the Fedelatin super-bantam title to Valbuena.

The loser Barreto was wandering back to his corner, and then collapsed. He stayed on the canvas prone. When he was carried onto the stretcher, his half body was apparently paralyzed according to Mr. Honda, who rushed to the corner of Barreto and watched his condition.

I heard that it was the very first ring tragedy to result in a boxer's death that happened in Venezuela, where there have been many stylish boxers since world junior welter champ Carlos "Morocho" Hernandez. I also heard after the midnight on that day that Barreto was too serious and dangerous to undergo brain surgery.

I left Caracas for Tokyo with a broken heart due to my boy Gamboa's defeat and also worried about Barreto's condition. On my way back to Tokyo, due to the time difference, I had to stay a night at Chicago, so I arrived at Tokyo on the 12th . On the next day I heard that Barreto pitifully passed away. I sincerely mourn his death with my deepest sorrow.

PS I wish to write separately on other results on the same card-Cermeno vs. Ortega and Arambulet vs. Gamboa (which I do not like to remember, though).

-- Joe Koizumi If you wish to refer to my previous reports, please access to:


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