Khan makes quick work of Barrera
Marco Antonio Barrera was rendered a beaten man by a horrendous cut and the quick hands of Amir Khan. Photo by David Martin-Warr/Cleva Media/DKP/FWI/Fightwireimages.com
Amir Khan’s destruction of Marco Antonio Barrera on Saturday in Manchester, England, should be another lesson to matchmakers: Don’t put old, slow fighters in the ring with particularly quick-handed opponents.
Shane Mosley, 37, dominated the younger Antonio Margarito in good part because of his far-superior hand speed and athleticism. Oscar De La Hoya, 35, couldn’t even begin to cope with Manny Pacquiao’s quickness.
Bernard Hopkins, 43, dominated Kelly Pavlik because the younger fighter wasn’t quick enough to offset Hopkins’ superior boxing skills, as Jermain Taylor was. Roy Jones Jr., once blazing-quick himself, was embarrassed by Joe Calzaghe.
On Saturday, Barrera, 35, fell into the latter category in losing a five-round technical decision.
The future Hall of Famer couldn’t see Khan’s punches coming let alone avoid them. Yes, the nasty cut on Barrera’s head played a role but anyone who says it would’ve been significantly different isn’t being honest.
Khan, taller by four inches, stayed out of reach and picked the plodding veteran apart from the outside with long, quick punches that ultimately might’ve broken him down – cut or no cut. Khan’s game plan was perfect; so was the opponent.
The sight of Barrera being manhandled by an upstart, a fate we’ve witnessed too many times with other once-great fighters, was pathetic for anyone who saw the Mexican warrior at his best.
It was also eerily reminiscent of the first De La Hoya-Julio Cesar Chavez fight, in which a blood-covered legend (then 33) was rendered helpless by a young, former Olympian with rare physical tools and an abundance of flash.
Chavez, who always had problems with quick-handed fighters and never lost to a slugger, went 11-4-1 over the remainder of his career against mostly competent opposition, meaning he remained an effective fighter for a time.
However, consider the four losses: The first three were against fighters who were too quick for him – De La Hoya again, Willie Wise and Kostya Tszyu – and the last came against journeyman Grover Wiley when Chavez was 43.
Barrera, if he continues to fight, shouldn’t make the same mistake. He could probably hang with tough, but limited fighters like David Diaz, Antonio Pitalua or Jesus Chavez, who would come to him. He should stay away from athletes like Anthony Peterson, Joan Guzman and Edwin Valero, who would pick him apart as Khan did.
And forget about rematches with Juan Manuel Marquez, who is a young 35, and Manny Pacquiao. They’re both too good and too explosive for this Barrera.
That raises this question: What’s the point of continuing?
Barrera can continue to fight the David Diazes or Antonio Pitaluas or Jesus Chavezes or other marginal contenders for modest paydays and little recognition. However, is that what one of the greatest fighters of his time really wants? To become just another fringe contender? A curiosity more than a legitimate contender?
He simply doesn’t have another comeback in him. His legacy is intact. And so is his health. The time is now to walk away.
“I feel good,” Barrera said. “What happened tonight is just because of the cut. I'll discuss it with my family, with Don King Productions, and go from there. For now, I'll take a break.”
If he must fight, which will probably turn out to be what happens, he should just be very careful in choosing an opponent.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]