PACQUIAO WINS AGAIN AS UNWILLING BARRERA WADES INTO RETIREMENT
The bout was tagged â€œWill to Win,â€ but when it was finally time for the rematch four years in the making between Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera, neither warrior presented himself as a willing dance partner. Pacquiao proved the more active fighter and showed fans it takes two to tango in taking an unexpectedly tame unanimous decision over Barrera, who eased gingerly into a long-awaited retirement in the wake of defeat.
When the fight was first signed thanks to a highly celebrated cease-fire between Bob Arum’s Top Rank and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, few outside of Mexico and the Philippines looked forward to the contest with a great sense of anticipation. After all, Pacquiao had thoroughly dominated Barrera from start to finish the first time they met in 2003, and Barrera, by all accounts, appeared to avoid a reunion at all costs, locking himself into irrelevant fights with Mzonke Fana, Robbie Peden, or Rocky Juarez whenever Pacquiao was available. Factoring in his decision loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, Barrera was thought by many to be cashing out when he finally agreed to the rematch. Sure enough, Barrera had announced the fight with Pacquiao as his last, regardless of the outcome, in a lengthy and successful career. Pacquiao, too, seemed to be in it for the money. The nonchalant attitude with which he approached training reflected his opinion of Barrera and the chance of receiving a competitive effort from a fading legend.
Barrera, on the other hand, assured anyone who would listen that he was training with the highest degree of discipline and that he would leave the fans and Pacquiao with a performance by which to remember him. Saturday night, Barrera failed to deliver on that particular statement. In trying to approach the bout from a tactical standpoint, Barrera only made one true adjustment from the first fight. This time, he found a way to survive.
From the opening bell, the normally aggressive Barrera looked timid and unwilling to open himself up to Pacquiao’s terror of a straight left hand. His plan of attack stood in sharp contrast to the rambunctious crowd in attendance, comprised of fans that had waited years to see their heroes collide once again. Very early in the contest, Barrera denied them the show they expected to see when he tried to prevent Pacquiao’s bursts of energy with holding rather than effective counter punching and thereby set the tone for a long and, at times, monotonous evening.
Pacquiao wasn’t helping matters any himself. He uncharacteristically fought, for what seems like the first time in his career, as if he was afraid of what was coming back from his opponent. It was an odd choice, considering the ease with which he dismantled a younger, sharper Barrera four years ago. Simply put, Barrera scored, as he did with several consecutive looping right hands in the second round, when Pacquiao allowed him to.
The one big glimmer of hope came in the fifth round when the fighters exchanged violently with each other, but after Pacquiao got the best of the â€œBaby Faced Assassinâ€ in the waning moments, Barrera’s corner men counseled him into holding back until later in the fight to make his move. Barrera, perhaps physically feeling outmatched in the slugging department, agreed, and the fight continued at a rather unsatisfying pace given the stakes of the match, Pacquiao pursuing and firing intermittently, and Barrera doing his best to evade the blows coming at him.
The last half of the fight was all Pacquiao as Barrera remained in his shell and seemed to forget about unleashing the storm his corner had hinted was on the way. Proving he wasn’t an entirely new man from the first meeting, Barrera again allowed his anger to get the best of him late in the fight, responding to a ghastly cut under his right eye with a blatant foul. Rather than use his head as a weapon as he did in 2003, Barrera intentionally blasted Pacquiao on a break and was docked a point from Referee Tony Weeks, putting himself into an even deeper hole in terms of points. Barrera must have understood how far behind he was, for he brought little effort into the twelfth and final round and allowed Pacquiao to coast to a wide unanimous decision.
When the judges turned in their cards, which read 118-109 twice and a puzzling 115-112, Barrera didn’t bother to pretend they were in his favor, choosing instead to keep his head down and let Pacquiao have his victory without the blemish of complaint. Pacquiao didn’t have much reason to celebrate based on his uninspired effort, but a win over Barrera is just that and worthy of praise. Still, it’s doubtful Pacquiao will take his training camp back to the Philippines, where distractions outside of the ring may have affected his performance this time and could do much more permanent damage should he tread those waters again. If he wants to remain at the top of pound-for-pound charts and one day ascend to the number one spot when Floyd Mayweather Jr. is defeated or retires, he would be wise to avoid repeating these mistakes.
As for Barrera, it’s difficult to understand his mentality coming into his last fight with retirement staring him in the face. There is no established strategy for fighting Pacquiao, but there are some moves that are clearly incorrect, and Barrera employed several in this fight. Barrera, like Roy Jones Jr. in his third fight with Antonio Tarver in 2005, erred in investing too much energy in defense and neglecting to throw meaningful counter punches. Just as Jones was heading into a rematch against a man who knocked him out, Barrera was up against a man who not only stopped but humiliated him and made him look quite normal. For that, Barrera’s goal may have been more about proving something to himself than proving anything to his fans or the boxing experts who will undoubtedly place him in the Hall of Fame now that his career is over. Like Jones, Barrera seemed content to go the distance rather than make a serious commitment to winning. It’s hard to dismiss Barrera in that way, but because it was said about Jones, who has accomplished significantly more in his career, it has to be said about Barrera.
Whatever the reason behind Barrera’s actions, speculation does no good, and one fight with poor decision-making isn’t going to tarnish his illustrious career. Favored to win or not, Barrera spent most of his career fighting the best opposition available, and, most importantly, attempting to avenge his losses even if it took years to come around to the task. Barrera follows his compatriot and arch nemesis Erik Morales into retirement in a year when boxing appears to have gotten back on its feet, hopefully for good. Their contributions to the sport will not be forgotten, and both of these warriors, who were made for each other and for the fans who witnessed their epic confrontations with one another, will be missed.