Morales Brawls to Victory Over Powerful Barrera
Some thought Erik Morales won.
Some thought Marco Antonio Barrera won.
But of this there can be no argument: boxing won.
Saturday night’s super-bantamweight title match at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, won by Morales on a split decision, was an entertaining and brutal brawl, the action furious and relentless from the opening to the final bell.
This fight would match up with the best boxing has had to offer in recent years. There were few jabs, few clinches and few instances where one or the other of the two Mexican boxing superstars wasn’t pounding the other with blows that would have put away lesser fighters.
“People needed a great fight,” Morales said, “and we gave it to them.”
When it was over, judges Carol Castellano (114-113) and Dalby Shirley (115-112) scored it for Morales. Judge Duane Ford (114-113) gave it to Barrera. The Times scored the fight even 114-114 as did the Associated Press.
With the victory, the unbeaten Morales (36-0, 28 knockouts) retains his World Boxing Council title and wins the World Boxing Organization crown Barrera (49-3, 36 knockouts) had held.
After the close decision, Morales was gracious in victory, Barrera bitter in defeat.
“He was the biggest puncher I ever faced,” Morales said. “I expected a tough fight and I got one. It was a very, very close fight. He was very brave and hit very hard.”
Countered Barrera: “I felt I won. I beat him and everyone who is saying he is a great champion now knows he is not.”
In this battle for the title of Mexico’s best fighter--Barrera is from Mexico City, Morales from Tijuana--Barrera came out strong, seemingly unintimidated by Morales’ reputation as one of the hardest punchers in the sport. In the second round, Barrera landed a left hand that caused Morales’ head to snap to the side, following later in the round with a right hand that seemed to stun Morales, and caused him to back up.
No one ringside could recall seeing Morales moved back quite like that.
“We were both hurt in the fight,” Morales said.
Indeed it was a fight that shifted back and forth in intensity, with each fighter taking the offensive.
Barrera tried staying on top of Morales to blunt his punching power, but Morales shifted to the uppercut to inflict damage.
Morales moved in on Barrera only to be met by combinations that sent him back, with neither fighter giving much ground.
In the 12th and final round, Barrera, slightly ahead in the round, threw an overhand punch that missed and then shoved Morales, causing him to hit the canvas.
Referee Mitch Halpern ruled it a knockdown, but a replay showed it was more of a push.
All three judges followed Halpern’s lead, giving Barrera a 10-8 round, but even that scoring decision wasn’t enough to pull out the victory for him.
According to the punch stat sheet, Morales had a 319-299 edge in punches connected, but Barrera had a better success rate, connecting on 48% of his punches to 37% for Morales.
So now what?
Morales said this was his last bout at 122 pounds and promoter Bob Arum’s long-range plans are for a match against WBO featherweight champion Prince Naseem Hamed.
But Saturday’s fight has created interest in a second Morales-Barrera fight.
“I will give Barrera a rematch,” Morales said, “but it must be at 126.”
Barrera, however, was still focused on Saturday’s fight.
“There is no need for a rematch,” Barrera said. “I beat him.”
Ricardo Maldonado, Barrera’s manager used stronger language.
“We were robbed,” he said.
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