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Barrera Gets In Jabs for Win

He methodically batters Tapia to earn unanimous decision in a nontitle fight that matched top featherweights.

November 03, 2002|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Johnny Tapia had the heart of a champion, but the other guy had a better jab, better body, better technique and a better game plan.

And so the so-called Battle of the Warriors, a match between two of the more appealing featherweights to ever lace up the gloves, was won Saturday night by Marco Antonio Barrera. The unanimous decision was greeted by scattered jeers from those in the crowd of 7,707 in the MGM Grand Garden who watched with their hearts and not with their eyes.

Barrera, of Iztacalco, Mexico, at 28 seven years younger than Tapia, weighed the same 126 pounds as the veteran from Albuquerque but looked stronger and sturdier and basically won with a jab that snapped Tapia's head back repeatedly.

Strength and body shape weren't the only differences in these two. Barrera went about his business with an expressionless calm unusual in the middle of a 12-round brawl. He moved and jabbed and danced and jabbed and said afterward, "My corner told me to jab and counter, to make sure there were no accidents."

And there were none, even though Tapia, who resembles a 6-year-old on a sugar high, bobbed and weaved and wiggled and squirmed and smiled and grimaced and generally looked like somebody who just had a garter snake slipped into his pants.

None of it mattered. Barrera was better and earned his $1-million payday in a fight that had no alphabet boxing organization title on the line. Barrera walked away from his World Boxing Council title to fight Tapia, rather than the top WBC contender. Tapia, who got $750,000 for his efforts, did the same with his International Boxing Federation title.

Tapia, who was at his best at about 115 pounds and won several world titles there, seemed a tad small for Barrera, whose record is now 56-3. Tapia, who may be beyond the twilight of his career and heading toward midnight, is now 52-3-2. The statistical difference told the story: Barrera threw 800 punches, landed 323 and connected on 179 of his 467 jabs. Tapia threw 509 punches, connected on just 124 and landed only 17 of the 221 jabs he tried.

Tapia, who is a proclaimed Barrera fan and friend, who called himself a "99-1 longshot" going into the fight, said afterward, "It took me a while to get into the fight, but once I did, and started to move my head, I thought I was able to find a way to be effective."

In the match just before the main event, Olympian Ricardo Williams took an impressive unanimous decision over Terronn Millett.

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