Barrera Vs Pacquiao II: The History of the Rematch

By Mike “Rubber Warrior” Plunkett – A generation ago, the rematch was, to a classic and vintage match-up in boxing, what Robin was to Batman. It was a natural response to a fantastic pairing and almost a complete given. The return match usually occurred within six months of the original, and in many notable cases, within as little as three months.

In today’s heady climate of promotional interests, opposing cable networks and contract considerations, it is a virtual miracle to see a rematch between major marquee names put together at all, let alone in a timely and fan friendly fashion. On those rare occasions when they are made, several years have usually elapsed and the peak quotients of the fighters involved often register considerably south of their initial encounter.

Such as is the case of the Manny Pacquiao versus Marco Antonio Barrera rematch, the long anticipated encore scheduled for October 6th.

When these two warriors met four years ago, both were riding high with commendable winning streaks and commanding significant coverage on HBO. Barrera in particular had enjoyed a long and colorful foray through the ranks, after soundly trouncing the much-hyped and undefeated Naseem Hamed in dominating fashion for bragging rights as world featherweight champion.

Going into their first meeting, Manny was riding a significant wave of popularity and momentum, having successfully defended his IBF Super Bantamweight Title several times, the second of the two major world titles he had previously secured. The major cable networks were focused in on him having long since warmed-up to the notion that the Filipino phenom was that special blend of skill, athleticism, and explosive power blended with a willingness to challenge the best in or around his weight class.

Although his challenge of Barrera was officially deemed as a non-title affair, it was essentially a challenge for the latter’s laurels as arguably the best featherweight on the planet. The fight itself was a dramatic if lopsided event which saw the ever-improving and closer to his peak Pacquiao administer a spirited and prolonged dish-out of hurt on the suddenly passive and ineffective looking veteran. It was the type of win that made those watching want to see more of the victor while at the same time left us wondering if the vanquished Barrera had reached the end of his shelf life as a world class fighter.

In the four years since that fateful night, both fighters have experienced their share of highs and lows.

Barrera managed to make a significant case for himself as having an off night in his loss to Pacquiao by emphatically trouncing former two-division champion Paulie Ayala by convincing TKO in mid-2004. Off of that performance, Barrera signed for a highly publicized rubber match with arch-rival and fellow countryman, Erik Morales, for his WBC Super Featherweight Title. The fight itself was an easy sell with both Barrera and Morales having split two previous matches in controversial fashion. Going into the bout, Morales career momentum and popularity were at an all-time high, having recently won his third major world title in as many weight classes. At the time, the general consensus was that Morales would prevail and Barrera would likely earn a final significant payday. As it turned out, Barrera managed to somewhat turn back the clock and clearly outpoint his hated rival in a torrid affair.

Off of that surprising and dramatic performance, the suddenly rejuvenated Barrera was expected by many to pursue a rematch with Pacquiao and the mega payday that went along with it. Instead, a fork suddenly appeared on the road of fistic fate, as Marco Antonio opted for a gravy train tour of less than scintillating title defenses before struggling greatly and appearing well beyond his means retaining his title against top contender Rocky Suarez over telling two encounters. In March of 2007, Barrera lost his WBC Super Featherweight Title to Juan Manuel Marquez, in a bout devoid of the usual fire and technical flair that punctuated Barrera’s earlier years.

While Manny moved on in search of alphabet titles and further marquee conquest after his 2003 defeat of Barrera, it is of particular note that he too had his dealings with the very highly regarded Juan Manuel Marquez, back in 2004. After an explosive start in a near first-round wipeout, Pacquiao appeared to have nicked the win against the studied poise and composure of the master ring wizard in Marquez, only to receive a draw.

Not that it was all bad. In fact, it is here during this period that Pacquiao enhanced his name to the point of building a legendary legacy, ironically against the very man that had served as the linchpin for Barrera’s return, former three-division king Erik Morales. Suffering an upset unanimous decision loss in early-2005, Manny regrouped to hand Morales his first stoppage loss a year later in the return. From there, Pacquiao convincingly out pointed the respect Oscar Larios, the former WBC Super Bantamweight Champion before annihilating Erik Morales in spectacular fashion in their rubber match. In April 2007 with the stoppage of the undefeated Jorge Solis, a veritable dark horse, Pacquiao has effectively rounded out matters on up to the present.

Bringing us up to the present, Marco Antonio Barrera has signed to face Manny Pacquiao in a rematch of their 2003 encounter. The bout is scheduled for October 6th at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and the widespread feeling presently permeating the boxing landscape is that Barrera is all but completely finished as a force and that Pacquiao is at or possibly only slightly beyond his absolute peak and at the height of his powers.

It’s interesting to note that Barrera’s payday will be of significant denomination. The curiosity is that Barrera appeared to be in a far better position to engage in a return with Pacquiao right after his rubber match victory over Morales in late-2004, yet, only now after his round robin tour of defenses and a lost championship does he entertain a second go-around with perhaps the greatest force at or around featherweight in decades.

The bout itself is in this writer’s opinion a natural on the one hand and a miracle on the other. Contractual complications inexplicably created by Pacquiao had served to preclude any possibility of this return ever being made. Pacquiao’s footloose use of the pen created a major hurdle. It was only after Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions formalized their amicable settlement that allowed the rematch to move forward.

Despite the late hour of Marco Antonio Barrera’s challenge, the reality is he is in a no-lose situation. He will get an excellent send-off payday and of course a chance, as remote as it may be, to exact revenge on Pacquiao. Should the unlikely occur and Barrera somehow manage to find a way to win, a rubber match could command exponentially more money, along with the knowledge that his place in history has firmly been secured.

For Manny, the opportunity here to improve upon his first waxing of Barrera, a former three-time world champion with a notably impressive record and a reputation of marked skill and durability, will be golden. An impressive early-round stoppage will equate to a mega-rematch offer for a second go-round with Juan Manuel Marquez, another bout long overdue and with the added spin of unfinished business. Alternatively, the undefeated and ever dangerous lure of a bout with Edwin Valero, if held in the Philippines, could draw upwards of two-hundred thousand spectators on top off massive PPV potential.

On October 6th, regardless of the outcome, the very fact that this bout actually came together is a miracle in itself. The different paths these two great warriors took in the four years after their initial meeting was punctuated with victory, defeat, elation and the unexpected. Each did well to get to this point, along the way providing fans with something to root for. Despite the general expectation on the outcome, do be too surprised if somehow the unexpected occurs. –

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