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These Two Remain the Best of Enemies

Times Staff Writer

There’s no need to manufacture animosity between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera for their rubber match tonight. The feud is real, the mutual lack of respect obvious, the name-calling loud and vicious.

There are two tiers of tension in tonight’s showdown at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena. In the ring, Morales and Barrera will fight for the World Boxing Council’s 130-pound title and supremacy in their personal battle, each having beaten the other by decision.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Dec. 1, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday December 01, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Boxers’ statistics -- A chart with an article about the Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera bout in Saturday’s Sports section said Barrera’s waist measured 38 inches at the weigh-in. It measured 28 inches.

Ringside, the promoters battle, Bob Arum’s Top Rank representing Morales and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions in Barrera’s corner. Arum and De La Hoya have been a team for most of De La Hoya’s career. But when De La Hoya announced last Saturday that he had signed an agreement with middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, both to promote Hopkins and to make him a partner in Golden Boy, De La Hoya also announced he would promote his own fights.

Furious at losing Hopkins as well as De La Hoya, Arum lashed out at Golden Boy Promotions. His tirade continued at a Tuesday news conference in Beverly Hills for Morales-Barrera III when Barrera did not attend.

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“This is unprofessional,” Arum said. “They [Golden Boy] are co-promoters and they are basically saying ... the promotion is your problem. Is this ridiculous? It shows you how inept they are as promoters.”

Barrera, who was at Wednesday’s news conference in Las Vegas, said he had already done his share of promotion via a media day at his Big Bear training site and a national conference call.

Replied Morales, through a translator, “I’m just hoping he shows up for the fight.”

Morales and Barrera have their own issues. Morales used a derogatory term to describe Barrera, which resulted in a punch being thrown by Barrera at a news conference before their second fight.

And they have engaged in an ongoing battle over their roots, Barrera coming from Mexico City, Morales from Tijuana, fueling old resentments between urban Mexico City and the rural northern part of the country.

It may be hard to notice with all the sound and fury, but this fight has the potential to be outstanding. Such was the case in the first two.

Morales (47-1, 34 knockouts) and Barrera (58-4, 41) initially fought at 122 pounds. That was in February 2000. Morales won a split decision, two of the three judges separating the fighters by a single point. They went at it again in June 2002, at 126 pounds. That time, Barrera won by unanimous decision, giving Morales his only loss.

For tonight’s bout, Morales has been trash-talking for every microphone, camera and notebook placed in his face.

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“Barrera is not the fighter he once was,” Morales said. “He can’t beat me, not even in his dreams.”

Barrera, on the other hand, has been low-key, saying the move to 130 pounds favors his opponent.

“There is an advantage to Morales,” he said through a translator. “But I want to make it clear there will be no excuses.

“The first fight was explosive. There was a lot of action. The second fight was more technical. I think this fight will be a combination of the first two.”

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Barrera insists he harbors no ill will toward Morales, who had his International Boxing Federation title taken away because he chose to fight Barrera instead of a mandatory challenger.

“I have extended my hand in friendship many times,” Barrera said, “but he lives in his own world.”

Tonight, their worlds collide again.

*

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Tale of the Tape

Measurements of Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera for their 12-round bout for Morales’ world 130-pound title. Card begins at 6 p.m. on HBO pay-per-view from MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

*--* MORALES BARRERA 27 Age 30 130* Weight 130* 5' 8" Height 5' 7" 72" Reach 70" 35" Chest Normal 37" 37" Chest Expanded 39" 12" Biceps 13" 10" Forearms 11" 29" Waist 38" 19 1/2 " Thigh 18" 14" Calf 12 1/2 " 15" Neck 15" 6 1/2 " Wrist 6" 10" Fist 11"

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*--*

*Weights, in pounds, are approximate.


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