Thursday, June 08, 2023  |



Khan-Barrera doesn’t make sense

Fighters Network

A word from the how-quickly-things-can-change department: Six months ago, Amir Khan was undefeated and Marco Antonio Barrera was retired. Now they’re set to face each other in a no-excuses, must-win fight for both.

It’s everything fight fans want – vulnerable but capable fighters, an intriguing matchup whose outcome is in doubt and a meeting with real consequences. From a fan’s perspective, Khan vs. Barrera makes perfect sense.

For Khan and Barrera, however, it doesn’t necessarily make any sense at all.

This is a classic case of a fight in which the size of the backward step taken by the loser is significantly greater than the size of the forward step taken by the winner.

If Barrera loses, he’s 35 going on 40 (the man’s had 71 fights over a 19-year career) and he can’t beat a semi-suspect/semi-prospect like Khan. If Khan loses, that’s two defeats in three fights, and though it wouldn’t spell the end of his career, it would spell the end of his hype and his marketability.

Of course, we know why Khan’s taking the fight: to potentially add a future Hall of Famer’s name to his resume. But how badly does the 2004 Olympic silver medalist need that right now? It’s not like he requires a name on his record to build his star power; he’s already one of the top three stars in British boxing. And this can’t be about becoming a bigger international star because it’s not even certain yet that the fight will be televised on the other side of the Atlantic.

Two fights ago, Khan got cold-cocked in the first round, and his goal right now should be to shore up his defense, learn on the job for a couple more fights and become a more complete boxer. He just turned 22 a month ago and he has all the time in the world to get there. There’s absolutely no rush if you’re planning for the long haul with this kid.

Meanwhile, we know exactly why Barrera’s taking the fight: to make a statement that his latest comeback is for real and potentially have his Bernard-Hopkins-vs.-Kelly-Pavlik moment. There’s just one problem with that plan: Khan isn’t Pavlik. Until Hopkins beat him, Pavlik was a pound-for-pounder with a zero at the end of his record who held an undisputed championship. Khan, despite his vast potential, still has a long way to go to shake the notion that he was exposed against Breidis Prescott. And if Barrera beats him, the boxing world will conclude that the Brit was never cut out for the pros anyway.

I polled a couple of matchmakers on whether they agree that the matchmaking here is curious, and found some reasonable counter arguments to my take.

“It doesn’t make sense for Barrera, but I think it makes a lot of sense for Khan,” opined Tom Brown, the matchmaker for Goossen-Tutor Promotions. “Obviously, they feel in the Prescott fight he got caught early, and that happens sometimes in this game unfortunately with the best of them. Clearly, Freddie (Roach, Khan’s trainer) saw something that he likes. He saw Barrera in with Pacquiao and he was in China when Barrera fought Sammy Ventura, and you got a full-blown lightweight fighting someone who turned pro at around 110 pounds. Khan’s a much bigger man, he’s faster, stronger, and that size is going to matter. I think it’s a brilliant move, I applaud Khan’s team for taking it.”

While Brown feels the fight makes sense for one fighter because he strongly favors that fighter to win, Carl Moretti, the matchmaker for DiBella Entertainment, says he’d make this fight if he were handling either boxer.

“From a promoter’s point of view, it is the epitome of a ‘s— or get off the pot’ fight. It’s really make or break for either guy,” Moretti said. “It’s to find out what Amir Khan has – if he can’t beat today’s Barrera, then what’s the point? And Barrera, if he can’t beat Amir Khan, then really what’s the point? It’s a risk worth taking, because it tells the promoter what you’ve got with these guys -although it really doesn’t say you’ve got a lot, if you want to look at it like that. All you’ve done is beat a very well-faded Barrera or a very hyped-up guy who really couldn’t fight in Amir Khan. But it’s still a risk worth taking if I’m promoting these guys.”

From a fan’s perspective, every risk is a risk worth taking. We always want to see fights where the outcome isn’t predetermined and where the stakes are significant.

Neither fighter is sitting idly on the pot, and they’re to be commended for that. But one of them will be left with regrets the morning after the fight.

And I suspect that even the one who’s left without regrets probably isn’t going to have advanced his career as far as he hoped when he signed the contract.


There were no losers in the stirring Andre Berto-Luis Collazo fight – and I mean that quite literally, since I scored the bout 114-114 (with the sixth round even). Two thoughts: First, why didn’t somebody, be it a fellow commentator or someone in the production truck, at some point mention to HBO’s Bob Papa that there was no knockdown in the first round? (Things to watch for, Bob: A fighter touching the canvas and/or a ref issuing a count. We got neither here.) Second, the point deduction against Berto in round four was wholly justified. Though Harold Lederman said a fighter shouldn’t be penalized for holding when he’s hurt, he neglected to mention that Berto got staggered in the first round and kept holding (and receiving warnings) in rounds two, three and four. Overall, a fine job of refereeing by Keith Hughes. ÔǪ

As long as I’m already picking on Papa, how amusing was it when he signed off by recommending viewers stay tuned for a movie with a title he pronounced “Hoonio”? Uh, it’s “Juno,” Bob. The “j” sounds like a “j” and there’s no “i” in there. Don’t worry, it’s not like it was a Best Picture nominee or anything. ÔǪ

Is anyone else disappointed that they haven’t been able to get any C- or D-list celebs to go to Singapore to watch this season’s Contender fights? No Jimmy Caan, no Burt Young, not even Sergio Mora. Come on, Sergio, it’s not like we’re asking you to go to Memphis or anything. ÔǪ

On the positive side for The Contender, the foot massage/torture scene last week was a step in the right direction, as it drew some personality out of the fighters. Call me crazy, but by the time we get to the second round of the tournament, I’d like to actually care about a couple of these guys. ÔǪ

Naturally, I’m eager to see Gary Russell Jr. again after his pro debut on ShoBox. But is it weird that I’m even more eager to see Antonio Reyes again? Reyes, cheesy little mustache and all, seems like he’d be a lot of fun in an ESPN2 swing bout against a clubfighter on his level. ÔǪ

Roy Jones Jr. in his hometown against a zero-chance opponent, Omar Sheika, sounds to me like a farewell fight. If that’s what it is, then nobody can complain. If it’s anything other than that, then shame on everyone involved.