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Articles of 2004

Erik Morales-Marco Barrera: The Rivalry Resumes Tonight

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The fiercest rivalry in boxing since the Holyfield-Bowe trilogy resumes tonight when WBC and IBF Super-featherweight champ Erik Morales 47-1 (34) meets former two-time champ Marco Antonio Barrera 58-4 (41) for the third time in four years. Combined, this will be the 40th world title bout that Morales and Barrera have fought during their careers.

Their first fight in February of 2000 was for the undisputed junior featherweight title. For 12 rounds Morales and Barrera went at each other non-stop. In what was voted Ring Magazine's fight of the year, Morales won a controversial split decision.  In June of 2002 Barrera evened the score by winning a 12 round unanimous decision over Morales in the rematch. The decision favoring Barrera in the rematch was just as controversial as the one that favored Morales in the first fight.

There are two things that make the Morales-Barrera trilogy unique. First, after fighting at 122 and 126 in the first two bouts, tonight's rubber match will be at super-featherweight (130). Second, both fighters were seen as the winner in both fights.

Morales was awarded a split decision in the first fight, a bout most observers thought Barrera won due to his late rally in the last two rounds. In the rematch, Barrera won a unanimous decision and dealt Morales his only career defeat. However, most felt that Morales carried the fight during the rematch and viewed him as the winner.

What also separates Morales-Barrera III from some of the other notable trilogies over the last 35 years is the seeming dislike they have for each other. The Ali-Frazier trilogy, the standard for which all others are measured, was promoted against a backdrop of common dislike. But in reality the hate and disdain was only harbored by Joe Frazier. Although Ali often mocked Joe, he actually liked him and always had a twinkle in his eye while going through his routine of deriding Frazier.

Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward had nothing but respect for each other. Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe appeared on talk shows together and gave interviews leading up to all three of their fights, leaving their hostility for the ring. In the Leonard-Duran trilogy, the hatred and resentment came from Roberto Duran, who despised the All-American image projected by Sugar Ray Leonard. Leonard was more put off by Duran than actually having dislike for him. And the outward hostility between them only existed in their first two bouts in 1980. Their third fight nine years later lacked the anticipation and drama that surrounded the first two.

Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera are a different story and have a genuine dislike for each other that extends beyond the 24 rounds they fought trying to conquer each other in the ring. The animosity first surfaced when Barrera called Morales an Indian on a Mexican television station prior to their first fight in 2000. It escalated when Morales called Barrera a homosexual while promoting their rematch in 2002, which led Barrera to cold cock Morales at a later news conference in Houston. On top of that, you have two proud hall-of-fame Mexican fighters who are fighting to etch their names in history with the other all-time greats from south of the border. Fighters like Carlos Zarate, Salvador Sanchez, and Julio Caesar Chavez, just to name a few.

If that wasn't enough, this past Tuesday Barrera added insult to injury when he skipped a Beverly Hills news conference promoting their upcoming rubber match. This led Morales' promoter, Bob Arum to have someone dress in a chicken suit and represent themself as Barrera during the conference. This happens to be one of the rare fights that represents everything good in boxing, and it didn't need Arum's childish stunt to hype it.

The 28 year old Morales has beaten current or former world champions in each of his last three fights, and he is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He is a three time WBC champion at 122, 126, and 130 pounds, and is 18-1 in championship fights. The 30 year old Barrera is a two time champion, winning world titles at 122 and 126 pounds. Barrera is 17-3 in world title fights and will be fighting for the first time in his career at 130 pounds when he faces Morales tonight.

In separate conference calls this week, Morales said, “this is the weight I should have been fighting a long time ago. I'm a more complete fighter at 130; this is a good weight for me. I'm going to be stronger. I'm going to be able to do more things that I couldn't do because of the weight.”

In a later conference call from his training camp in Big Bear, Barrera said his greater heart will offset whatever advantage Morales may have at 130. When Barrera's remark about heart got back to Morales, he took one final shot at his bitter rival and said, “You've seen my fights. I never have ended up with my face on the ground as he has.” Morales was obviously referring to Barrera being stopped by Manny Pacquiao last November and knockdowns earlier in his career at the hands of Junior Jones.

After two epic battles there isn't much to choose between Morales and Barrera, the fights have been that close. Because of their contrast in styles, this fight will most likely be a struggle again,  regardless of who comes out on top. However, I believe a case can me made for Morales in this rubber match more so than one could have been made for either fighter before their first and second fights.

In his last title fight, Barrera endured a beating for 10 rounds before finally being stopped in the 11th by Manny Pacquiao. I don't believe Barrera is the same fighter now that he was this time last year. On top of that, Barrera is fighting in unchartered water as this is his first time fighting at 130 pounds.

On the other hand, the taller and rangy Morales seems to be more comfortable at the higher weight and has shown to be one of the rare fighters who has carried his punch as he's moved up. Both fighters are versatile and capable of boxing at a measured pace or going to war if they have too. However, due to the pounding Barrera took from Pacquiao, and the fact they are fighting at the higher weight, it's not likely he can win this time if he's forced to slug and trade with Morales.

That means for Barrera to win, he has to out-box Morales over 12 long rounds. Something that will be very hard to do against an opponent who is a better puncher, has a longer reach and who likes to pressure his opponents. It would be a monumental task for a prime Barrera, let alone one who enters the ring with Morales with what many believe are diminishing skills. That being said, because of his huge heart and championship pedigree, Barrera cannot be counted out. And we cannot forget that his opponent is Erik Morales. If there is one great fight left in Barrera, Morales is the fighter most like to bring it out.

Many things are riding on the outcome of Morales-Barrera III for both fighters. Another title for Barrera or the chance for Morales to add to his gaudy record in title fights. Their legacies and place in history will be altered by the outcome of this fight. The winner will be in line for another pay per view super fight in 2005. And both fighters are aware that history will recognize the winner of the rubber match as the better fighter.

After Barrera was announced the winner in their rematch, he walked over to Morales, shook his hand and he told Morales, “It, ” meaning the feud, “is over.” Morales said OK, but apparently didn't mean it.”

Forget the title, money, legacy, and place in history. Both Barrera and Morales are out to prove who is the better man and fighter.

That's why Morales-Barrera III will be remembered as the most important and significant fight between the two. There is one thing riding on it that only a few can relate to. For in the rubber match, Morales and Barrera will be fighting for the championship of each other.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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