Posted 12:00 AM | Oct 8, 2007
|Weight Class:||Super Featherweight|
67 Wins | 7 Losses | 44 KOs
|Birthdate:||January 17, 1974|
|Nickname:||Baby Faced Assassin|
He is the finest featherweight to come out of Mexico since the legendary Salvador Sanchez, and one of boxing's best, pound for pound, but oddly enough, Marco Antonio Barrera's career path almost led him to become a lawyer, not a prizefighter.
And after over 15 years of excitement, boxing fans are breathing a sigh of relief that "The Baby Faced Assassin" chose the ring and not the courtroom.
Born on January 17, 1974, Barrera and his brother Jorge took to the sweet science when they were children, and it was evident early on that Marco had special talent in the ring. Shattering the stereotype that fighters had to be poverty-stricken to be successful, Barrera, who came from a successful family, compiled an amateur record of 56-4, which included an amazing five Mexican National Championships.
Eager to parlay his success into the pro ranks, Barrera turned pro in Mexico at the tender age of 15. Fighting as a flyweight, Barrera knocked out David Felix in two rounds on November 22, 1989, launching a pro career that would bring him to the heights of the sport. Winning 12 of his first 16 matches by knockout, Barrera, who was fighting almost exclusively in Mexico City , fought for his first title on March 9, 1992. With the Mexican super flyweight title on the line, Barrera dispatched of Jose Felix Montiel in two short rounds, taking home his first professional belt in the process.
Five defenses of that title would follow, including Marco's first fight over the 12 round championship distance (a victory over Josefino Suarez on April 1, 1992). In November of 1992, Barrera made his United States debut, knocking out Esteban Ayala in four rounds before an appreciative crowd that had an idea that they were watching a future star at work. 1993 was another busy year for Barrera, as he went 6-0 with three knockouts, including a 12 round decision win over Eduardo Ramirez in August that netted him another belt, this time the NABF super flyweight title.
Now 28-0, Barrera entered 1994 as not only a local phenomenon, but also a national one, and boxing insiders were lining up to check out the Iztacalco native in action. And if that wasn't enough pressure on the 20-year-old, he had also begun studying law in college back home in Mexico.
But the ring kept calling, and the relentless Barrera kept winning, even as his level of competition escalated. By the middle of the year, Barrera had enough of the super flyweight class, and moved up to the super bantamweight division, where he was stronger and more devastating to his opponents.
In December of 1994, Barrera stopped former world champion Eddie Cook in eight rounds in Las Vegas, and earned a shot at Daniel Jimenez' WBO super bantamweight title.
Jimenez was game against the Mexican star in their title bout on March 31, 1995, but the tireless Barrera was too much for him and Ã¬The Baby Faced AssassinÃ® won his first world title by the unanimous scores of 115-112, 116-111, and 117-110.
With a world championship around his waist, Barrera became even more determined, defending his crown an incredible four times before the end of 1995 (TKO 2 Frankie Toledo, TKO 1 Maui Diaz, W 12 Agapito Sanchez, TKO 7 Eddie Croft).
But despite his success, exciting style, and unbeaten record, there were still some skeptics who wondered about how Barrera would fare against certain high-level opponents. After his February 3, 1996 bout in Inglewood , California against former world champion Kennedy McKinney, they would wonder no longer.
In a fight chosen to kick off HBO's new Boxing After Dark series, Barrera and McKinney waged war in what many observers called one of the greatest fights of all-time. Dropped to the canvas for the first time in his career, Barrera rose, and after a toe-to-toe battle between the two warriors, he sent McKinney to the floor five times en route to a 12 th round TKO win. Not wishing to rest on his laurels, Barrera hopped back into the ring in May of 1996, and ran off three knockout victories (over Jesse Benavides, Orlando Fernandez, and Jesse Magana) in defense of his crown.
But in November of 1996, Barrera ran into another former world champion, the skilled Junior Jones, who ended Marco's unbeaten streak after a thrilling bout. Losing on all judges' scorecards entering the fifth round, the hard-hitting Jones nailed Barrera on the jaw with a perfect right hand and sent him to the floor. Barrera gamely rose, but after a follow-up barrage, Marco's corner entered the ring, giving Jones the victory via disqualification. Five months later, Barrera didn't want any tune-up fights; he wanted revenge. Meeting for the second time, on April 18, 1997 at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas , Barrera and Jones again thrilled boxing fans, and after 12 fast paced rounds, Marco and his legion of fans believed he did enough to regain the title. The judges didn't agree, giving Jones the controversial decision by the scores of 114-113, 114-112, and 116-111.
After the disappointing loss, Barrera took a well-deserved ten-month break from the ring. And when he returned against Angel Rosario in February of 1998, skeptics believed that Barrera had been burned out from too much boxing too soon.
They were wrong.
Rosario was stopped in five rounds, and two more KO victories followed for Barrera, who was then matched with Richie Wenton for the now vacant WBO super bantamweight title on October 31, 1998.
Wenton was no match for the rested and rejuvenated Barrera, and was stopped in four rounds. With the belt back around his waist, Barrera defended his title three times and then was matched up with unbeaten countryman Erik Morales, who was also the WBC super bantamweight champion.
On February 19, 2000, Barrera, an underdog in the bout, fought his heart out for 12 torrid rounds. Morales matched his rival blow for blow, and when the final bell rung, the fans at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas stood in awe of these two warriors.
Unfortunately for Barrera, then the scorecards were read, and to the surprise of most in the arena, Morales was awarded a split decision.
Despite the loss on his record, Barrera was once again a hot fighter in the sport. The bout with Morales was voted "Fight of the Year" by The Ring magazine, and fans were eager to see Marco in action again.
Given back his title by the WBO due to the controversial nature of his loss to Morales, Barrera looked better than ever in defending his crown against Luiz Freitas (KO1 ), Jose Luis Valbuena (W 12), and Jesus Salud (TKO 6). And though most thought of Barrera as a brawler in the mold of Julio Cesar Chavez, Marco amazingly started to show new wrinkles in his style, boxing stylings reminiscent of great featherweight champ Salvador Sanchez.
But Prince Naseem Hamed hadn't been paying attention, and when he squared off with Barrera in a featherweight super fight in Las Vegas on April 7, 2001, the British knockout artist expected Barrera to stand in front of him and absorb punishment.
In a brilliant display of boxing skills and accurate punching, Barrera shocked Hamed and the boxing world with a clear-cut 12 round decision (115-112 twice, and 116-111) that left no doubt as to who the best 126-pounder in the world was.
Yet after keeping busy with a sixth round TKO of Enrique Sanchez in September of 2001, Barrera and Morales got together again on June 22, 2002 to settle their unfinished business. Once again the two 126-pound standouts fought on dead even terms for 12 rounds, and though the rematch was more tactical, it didn't lack for drama. When the decision was announced, it was unanimous (115-113 twice, 116-112) for Barrera, and "The Baby Faced Assassin" had evened the score, setting the stage for an epic third battle.
Despite winning the WBC featherweight crown from Morales, Barrera refused the belt, choosing to set an example for other world-class fighters who don't need a sanctioning body to declare them as champion.
One important honor that Barrera did receive after the win over Morales was the prestigious Ring featherweight title belt, which honored Marco as the people's champion. In defense of that belt, Barrera scored wins over well-regarded former champions Johnny Tapia (W12) and Kevin Kelley (TKO 4) in November of 2002 and April of 2003, respectively, adding to his prestige as the best 126-pounder in the world.
An upset loss to Philippine bomber Manny Pacquiao in November of 2003 was a minor setback, but Barrera jumped right back into the ring with one of boxing's best, Paulie Ayala, in June of 2004, stopping the highly regarded champion in ten rounds.
Barrera, who signed a promotional deal with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions in 2003, set his sights on even greater victories in his already stellar career, and he has already put two big ones in the bank in 2004, first against Ayala, and then on November 27, 2004, Barrera and Erik Morales battled for the third time at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This time the WBC Super Featherweight crown was on line, and after 12 torrid rounds, Barrera jumped right back onto the pound for pound list with a stirring majority decision win over his heated rival, once and for all establishing his greatness in the eyes of boxing fans.
In the first defense of his newly won 130-pound title, Barrera blasted out mandatory challenger Mzonke Fana in just two rounds on April 9, 2005, and he unified the super featherweight crown with a lopsided 12 round decision victory over IBF champion Robbie Peden on September 17.
Needless to say, if Barrera's career so far has been any indication, the best may still be yet to come.