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Barrera Gets Some Payback

Boxing: He wins a close but unanimous decision over Morales in Las Vegas, handing Mexican rival his first setback.


LAS VEGAS — In the months and days leading up to his featherweight championship fight with Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera engaged his countryman and rival in a slew of mind games.

He'd alternate insults and praise, ethnic slurs and back-handed compliments, all of which served to further anger the Tijuana-born Morales.

Barrera, Mexico City's favorite son, even said he had trained for a 12-round fight, though he also intimated that he needed to knock out the Top Rank-promoted Morales to get a win in Las Vegas, Top Rank's home base.

Turns out Barrera didn't need Morales counted out Saturday night. He won a unanimous, though disputed, decision, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with judge Chuck Giampa scoring it 116-112, and judges Mike Glienna and Duane Ford having it 115-113. The Times scored the fight 116-112 in favor of Barrera, as did the Associated Press.

Many ringside observers had it much closer. At the center of the controversy was a non-knockdown call made by referee Jay Nady after Barrera went down to a knee on a Morales body shot toward the end of the seventh round, a round all three judges gave to Barrera, 10-9.

Nady said Morales had stepped on Barrera's foot, sending him down. Indeed, had Nady allowed for a knockdown, the round would have been scored 10-8 in favor of Morales and Morales would have won a split decision with Glienna's and Ford's scorecards in favor of him, 114-113.

"The referee was awful," said Morales, who suffered a nasty cut on the bridge of his nose in the second round and had his right eye nearly swollen shut by an overhand right in the eighth.

"[Nady] allowed him to do a lot of low blows and a lot of elbows, as always, and he never took a point away."

With his first career loss, Morales (41-1) lost his World Boxing Council 126-pound title (it is now vacant), as well as a big payday in the fall against Paulie Ayala.

Barrera, whose face was pristine, save for a scratch under his right eye, did not pay sanctioning fees to the WBC for the fight and was instead awarded a world championship belt by Ring Magazine.

"It was a close fight," said Barrera, who avenged his split-decision loss to Morales from Feb. 19, 2000, to improve to 55-3. "I did my job. I came in to outbox him."

How close was the fight? Barrera threw 607 punches and landed 207 of them, 34%. Morales threw 599 punches and landed 205, 34%.

Barrera landed more jabs and at a higher percentage (90 of 278, 32%) than Morales (70 of 265, 26%) while Morales was more adept at power punches (135 of 334, 40% to 117 of 329, 36%).

And while the rematch of the 2000 fight of the year did not live up to the original's frenetic pace, it was a hotly contested affair

With a World Cup atmosphere--Mexican flags, Spanish-language chants, derisive whistles--Barrera's strategy early on was to stay away and not trade punches with the heavy-hitting Morales.

It was the same stall-and-frustrate strategy Barrera used to perfection against Prince Naseem Hamed last year.

Morales was aggravated and angered by the tactic.

"Like in the first fight, I controlled the fight," Morales said. "He didn't do anything the first six or seven rounds. He thought I was going to run out of gas."


Fernando Montiel (24-0-1, 18 knockouts) won the World Boxing Organization super-flyweight title by dealing Pedro Alcazar (25-1-1) his first professional loss with a sixth-round technical knockout. Montiel, the WBO's 112-pound champion, will vacate that title and instead keep the 115-pound championship.

Lightweight prospect Miguel Cotto (10-0, eight KO's) continued his rapid and impressive ascent with a fifth-round TKO of one-time contender Justin Juuko.

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