Connect with us

Articles of 2009

BARRERA: I Just Know The Win Is Coming



Marco Antonio Barrera understands the scenario that has been laid out for him. He is walking a path trod by so many great champions before him when gray flecks begin to appear in their hair. He has been brought to the arena to lose.

Saturday afternoon (4 pm US time) Barrera will be at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England for the purpose of improving someone else’s resume. If that were not the belief of those who arranged this fight with young Amir Khan, the bright British prospect with the limestone chin, he would not be here. This Barrera understands completely, which is not the same as accepting its validity.

Frank Warren is many things, but not a risk taker. England’s finest and most successful promoter, Warren has often been criticized for not putting his best fighters in against top competition if there is any way to avoid it, which is why the general consensus is that Warren must believe Barrera is well shot.

Otherwise, why would he put Khan, a British boxing hero without having yet won a single championship even at the Olympic level, in the ring with a man who has won world titles in three weight classes and will one day be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame?

Warren is convinced he has put Khan in the perfect position. He is facing a revered former champion from whom Khan will get the keys to bigger paydays without having risked the dangers Barrera would have once represented. He is, in essence, fighting an imposter – a Marco Antonio Barrera but not the Marco Antonio Barrera.

Barrera has heard all this talk. He has heard experts claim his skills have diminished beyond repair. At 35 and the loser in his last two big fights to Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in lopsided fashion, Barrera is a realist. He does not deny he is not what he once was. His point is different.

His point is that what he still is will be good enough. Good enough to teach this young man why boxing is called the hurt business.

“He has never faced a fighter with my level of skills,’’ Barrera said recently. “I know about his hand speed. I know about his footwork. I know about his chin, too.’’

With that a man once known as “The Baby-Faced Assassin’’ smiled the smile of someone who hurts people for a living. It was a smile without humor. The kind of smile nearly all of Barrera’s opponents got to see when it was too late, including Khan’s idol, the former champion Nazeem Hamed.

Hamed was a hot property the night he faced Barrera, who even then was rumored to be on the downside. By the time he was finished with Hamed it was Hamed who was on the down side, beaten to the point that he never fought again.

Khan has promised to avenge that defeat Saturday night. Barrera has reminded him of the savage beating his friend took for making the same mistake Khan now has. It is a memory he wants Khan to keep fresh in his mind as the final hours tick down and night falls on Manchester, a memory that will accompany him into the ring, a place where the door only opens in, not out.

“I’m not coming there to be a step (stepping stone),’’ Barrera snapped. “I’m coming to win. They were worried about my cut (in an ill-advised tune-up fight in Mexico in January). Amir Khan should not be worrying about no cut. He should be worrying about the fact that I’m coming for him. He’ll get 100 percent of Marco Antonio Barrera on March 14.’’

The question is how much of Barrera is left? Is 100 per cent of this version enough to defeat youth, speed and hunger even if Khan does seem to have a serious chin deficiency?

Barrera believes so, even though in a light-hearted moment he hinted that he understands the Barrera who will arrive in Manchester is not quite the same one that battered Hamed into retirement eight years ago at a time when Khan was a young amateur who adored Hamed and hated Barrera for what he did that night.

“When I was 17 I went to fight at the Forum in Los Angeles,’’ Barrera recalled, “and because I was so young and powerful they called me ‘The Baby Faced Assassin.’ I think that name is no good any more. But what does that matter? I’m winning this fight. You can bet on that.

“When I was young I studied to become a lawyer. I went five semesters (to college in Mexico) but I had to dedicate myself to the sport of boxing. That is what I naturally loved. I think I really did make the right decision.

“Now there are people out there who say I’m not a contender any more and I want to make clear that I am. I know who I am. If they don’t know who I am I will show them on March 14.’’

If Barrera can defeat Khan and then win the lightweight title in his next fight he would become the first Mexican fighter to win world championships in four weight classes. He would have done something his long-time rival Erik Morales never did. He would have done something not even the great Chavez, who is his idol and that of every Mexican boxer, accomplished.

He would make history. To do that, he knows, he first must make Amir Khan realize there are opponents and then there are men like Barrera.

Barely two months after signing him, promoter Don King took Barrera to China and somehow off a win against journeyman Sammy Ventura, a fourth round stoppage that meant little, Barrera became the WBO’s mandatory challenger for the lightweight championship. That being the case, Barrera (65-6, 43 KO) doesn’t need to fight Khan (19-1, 15 KO) or anyone else to get what he says he wants. Yet he is in Manchester anyway, because he is a professional and thus is being well paid to give Khan the chance to make a name for himself at his expense.

But he is there for quite another reason too. He is there to win regardless of what Frank Warren or Amir Khan may think.

“I know I can retire and be a legend right now but I am only 35,’’ Barrera said. “I still have a lot to give to boxing. Retirement will come one day. Two or three more fights. But not yet.

“If I beat this kid, it will get me a shot at the title. That is what is driving me, the chance to be the first Mexican to be a world champion in four divisions. I want to write my name in history in Mexico. I just know the win is coming.”

That has been the mantra that blinded many ex-champions as they began to fade away. They all knew the next win was coming but when the fight arrived most often youth prevailed and only sadness reigned for the fallen former champion.

Barrera knows this because he saw it in the most painful of ways. He saw his idol, Chavez, suffer it at the hands of young Oscar De La Hoya and too many fighters after him. He saw even a journeyman like Frankie Randall beat Chavez, so he understands at some point, skills evaporate. No one knows where they went but they are gone.

Yet he and King believe what Khan and Warren think is impossible. They believe youth will not be served this night. Rather, it will be served up at the altar of what Marco Antonio Barrera once was.

“When a guy like this pops up on your doorstep unexpected it’s SPIRITUAL, man!’’ King thundered. “He called up one of my guys and said he wanted me to promote him. I brought him in and told him how it was and started working with him.

“With guys like this, it’s a mind game. New guys in promoting just look at the physical prowess but if you get into the man’s mind and revitalize it and he’s got championship qualities, you can do great things.

“Barrera is a fighter. He’s got Julio Cesar Chavez qualities. He’s a warrior, man. You get someone like that come to you and he wants to fight, you got to sober his mind first. Plant the seed of invincibility. The physical you can work on but the mindset is what makes the fighter.

“We’re going to come over there to merry olde England and shock and amaze! They’re talking like FDR (U.S. depression-era and WWII president Franklin Delano Roosevelt) who said, ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ I want them to keep that mindset until the night of the fight. Then it’s too late for them.

“I sat down and talked with Barrera to see if there were any inhibitions. He wanted to fight. He said the people saying he was finished don’t know him. I’m confident Barrera will rise to the occasion. Khan thinks he’s going to catapult himself but I’m betting everything on Barrera because when it comes to a fighting nature he has it hands down over Khan.

“When Khan got in a fight where that had to come out he got himself knocked out. I’m going to get a thrill out of this, bringing back the hero of the Mexican people. Once I felt he was still able to fight I went into what it means to be a Mexican fighter. He stood up strong.’’

He even stood up to his brother, who has long been in his corner. After Barrera sustained a serious cut in a meaningless tune-up fight in Jalisco, Mexico on January 31 in a victory over Freudis Rojas (1-7-1) not far from Barrera’s hometown that King opposed him taking, his brother wanted him to postpone the Khan fight or call it off all together.

He felt there was no need for it with a title shot already secured, arguing that the reward was not worth the risk. King disputed that, pointing out that in boxing nothing is secure, especially the head that wears the crown, or used to wear it. Finally, The Fighter ended the debate.

“If it was up to his brother there wouldn’t be no fight,’’ King said. “It’s easier for those not taking the punches to say no. Barrera stood up and said ‘Let’s go!’

“I was disappointed when they took that fight. I shouldn’t have let him but the guy had given his word to his people. He laid that on me and I had to let him go do it. Then he comes back cut and reality is staring me in my face. Everything I told him came true. They switched opponents on him. He could have got out of the fight but he wanted to keep his word. It may be a blessing though because he came back contrite and more committed.

“He laid into his brother’s ass. In the line of fire you ain’t got no moratorium. His brother said, ‘You ain’t getting no money!’ Marco said, ‘I’ll fight for what Don says.’

“Churchill said ‘This is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.’ That’s what it is for Barrera. A new beginning.  After he beats Khan he’s going to be renewed and resurrected.’’

Either that or he’s going to be bruised and sadly affected because if he loses to Amir Khan the lightweight title shot he wants so badly will go with him. That is a thought that Marco Antonio Barrera refuses to entertain.

He bristles at the suggestion this fight is about Khan and not him. Although he understands the consequences of defeat at this stage of his career, he still sees only victory.

Saturday night in England, far from where it all began for him in Mexico, Marco Antonio Barrera will measure himself one more time. He expects to learn he still fits in a most savage workplace.

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva



Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

Continue Reading

Articles of 2009

Ten Boxing Wishes For 2010



As 2009 comes to a close, one reflects on what went well and what went wrong during the year in boxing. There were many highlights. Pacquiao vs. Cotto and Showtime’s Super Six tournament were part of the best that boxing had to offer. But there were some low points too therefore the industry has some work to do in order to keep generating fans. Here are some suggestions for 2010:

10. Better pay per view cards

Paying 40 to 50 bucks to watch the main event gets old real quick. Why do we have to sit through a horrible under-card to get to the main course? It’s like being fed spam appetizers before the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems that the pay per view promoters just don’t get it. Are they watching what they put on or do they only watch the “big fight” as everyone else is slowly being conditioned to do so?

9. Time to make Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight

Okay, I understand he’s the son of one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. But he’s had 42 fights against low to mid level competition and has never managed to look spectacular. It’s time to throw the 23 year old out of the nest to see if he can fly. My suggestion is a fight against Sergio Mora or maybe even Yuri Foreman. Neither of these guys can punch. They may outbox Junior but they won’t totally humiliate him.

8. No more ridiculous Pay Per View mismatches

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez should’ve never been made. It was a ridiculous fight when it was announced and it was more ridiculous when it took place. Unable to bring Manny Pacquiao to the bargaining table for a third match against Juan Manuel Marquez, someone figured that pairing up the 135 pound champion against a natural 147 pounder like Mayweather would be a great idea. The pay per view generated over a million buys but the fact that millions of people were treated to an incredibly boring mismatch is what’s truly worrisome. I can guarantee you one thing about this card. The sport of boxing lost fans once the show was over and done with. Talk about short term thinking.

7. Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola shows up for a fight in amazing shape

It was painful to see Chris Arreola take a beating from the Ukrainian giant, Vitali Klitscho. The champion certainly earned his “Dr. Ironfist” moniker as he plowed his powerful shots into the former #1 WBC heavyweight contender’s face. He reddened and bloodied the young Mexican American with an assortment of weapons and foot movement seldom seen on a six foot seven inch heavyweight. Arreola was brave and unrelenting in battle. He never stopped coming forward and took chances when he could. His work in the ring at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t the problem. Where Arreola let himself down was outside the ring. His unwillingness to condition himself into a finely tuned athlete cost him certain immortality as the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican descent. Arreola has the heart and skills but it was his mental fortitude that broke down. Anyone who’s followed the Riverside fighter knows that his best weight is somewhere in the 230 pound range. It certainly isn’t at the 252 pounds he registered on the scale at the Staples Center.  Those fifteen to twenty extra pounds might have made all the difference in the world. Maybe he would’ve been a little quicker, maybe he could’ve sustained a faster pace in order to tire out the champion. In his most recent fight against Brian Minto, Arreola weighed in at a career high 263. It looks like “The Nightmare” isn’t willing to change for anyone. At this pace, the only nightmares he’ll be providing will be to the management of Hometown Buffets all across Riverside.  Just kidding “Nightmare”!

6. More respect for the lighter weights

Real boxing fans know that the most exciting fighters in the sport are usually found toiling in weight divisions south of 154 pounds. Pacquiao, Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Edwin Valero, Israel Vazquez, Juan Ma Lopez, Vic Darchinyan, Rafael Marquez and countless others have been the real driving force behind this sport. It’s those great fighters that have made boxing fanatics out of casual fans. The heavyweights may get all the money and glory but it’s the little guys who make the sport shine and it’s time they received greater compensation. It’s dismaying to think that a mediocre heavyweight can make three or four times as much as the great Rafael Marquez.

5. An American Heavyweight champion

Speaking of heavyweights, two Americans tried and failed at dethroning Vitali Klitschko this year. Both Kevin Johnson and Chris Arreola did their best to wrestle the belt away from “Dr. Klitschko” but came up short since they were easily outclassed. What happened to the great American Heavyweight? Where’s our new Joe Frazier or Ali? Even a new Gerry Cooney or a Ken Norton would do at this point. I’ve got a feeling that the only way we’re going to see an American champion is if Klitschko retires. My money is on Arreola. Although undisciplined and rough outside the ring, he’s got tons (no pun intended) of natural talent. He’s without a doubt the most talented American heavyweight on the scene.

4. More ShoBox

The Showtime Cable network gave us the best boxing on TV for the price of a cable television subscription. Their ShoBox series has been a proven hit for Senior VP of Sports Programming Ken Hershman. The concept is simple yet brilliant. Match up two up and comers with great records and let’s see what happens. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many have passed the ShoBox test and went on to bigger and better things. Others have been exposed as having padded records and eventually their careers stall and take a dive.

3. More safety in Mexico so I can attend a show without a gun battle breaking out

Having lived near the Tijuana border all my life I’m dismayed at the war zone that the city has evolved into. Every day there are reports of shootings fueled by the drug war trade. Believe it or not, there was a time when Tijuana was safe and most wouldn’t have thought twice about crossing the border for some seafood and nightlife. No more. Having covered several boxing cards on Revolucion Avenue many years ago, I got a taste of just how important the sport is to Mexican fans. It’s also important to me but not that important. For now I’ll stick to covering shows at the Pechanga Casino and in the less dangerous city of L.A. I never thought I’d say that.

2. Pac Man vs. Mayweather

This is the fight everyone wants to see. Seeing how Mayweather dominated Pac Man’s arch enemy, Juan Manuel Marquez, you have to wonder if the Filipino can handle Lil’ Floyd’s speed and size. One thing is for sure, betting against Pacquiao doesn’t usually work out for me. It never has. There’s no future in it. So if the fight gets done it’s Pacquiao by TKO in ten.

1. And finally

One final wish is reserved for all the readers of I wish you all a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for your continued loyalty to the site. It’s very much appreciated.

Continue Reading

Articles of 2009

A Very Special New Year's Day Column



It has been just over four months since Nick Charles, the play-by-play announcer for Shobox: The New Generation, was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer and forced to take a medical hiatus from the monthly show that has aired since 2001.

Since then he has undergone grueling chemotherapy treatments that have resulted in him losing all of his hair as he forces himself to live as normal of a life as possible. Through sheer force of will, as well as the strength and support that he receives from his wonderfully loving family and his strong Christian faith, the 63-year-old Charles has managed to keep his weight up while not falling prey to the always lingering threats of depression, cynicism and negativity.

If one was unaware that he was battling such an insidious disease, you’d never know from talking on the phone to him that he has been to hell and back. He has lost none of the inspiring energy that has endeared him to members of the boxing community and legions of worldwide viewers.

“I’m doing great,” Charles said during a telephone conversation on December 30th. “I’ve been off the chemo for a month, and the doctors have told me that I’m 80 percent in remission. I’m going to see them again in three months. It may come back, but if it takes one year, or two years, or however long, I’m going to make the most of the good time.”

As physically and emotionally wrenching as the grim diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been, even for someone as perpetually positive as Charles, the longtime announcer said a lot of good things have come from it.

Having been married three times, Charles is the father of four children: Jason, 38, Melissa, 34, Charlotte, 22, and Giovanna, 3 ½.

While Charles is not big on regrets, he is the first to admit that he wasn’t always there for his older children. For many years he traveled the world as a CNN correspondent, often putting the demands of his career above all else, including those closest to him. Nowhere was the strain more evident than in his relationship with Melissa.

Having been divorced from Melissa’s mother since 1977, Charles said his relationship with that daughter has been especially “hot and cold, all of our lives.”

His illness has enabled them to forge a relationship that has been “based on a massive amount of forgiveness and understanding.”

“This has had a tremendous healing effect on both of us,” said Charles. “My illness has had a fortifying effect on a lot of things, the most important of which is my relationships with my family.”

That also includes his first wife, with whom he has had an often acrimonious relationship over the past three decades.

“It took a long time for the scab to become a scar, but we had lunch one day and it was so great to once again see the gentle, soft sides of each other,” he explained. “The whole divorce process creates a hardness that doesn’t always go away.”

Charles is also the grandfather to three children, some of whom are about the same age as his youngest daughter. He jokes that he has a “nuclear 21st century family” because of the similar ages of two generations of children. One of the hardest things for him has been the realization that he can’t always play with them in manner in which he would like.

“The hemoglobin is the fuel in your tank, so when it’s low you can’t will yourself to do things no matter how much you want to,” said Charles. “You can’t just sleep it off or work through it. I don’t want the kids to wonder why I can’t play in the backyard with them, or kick a soccer ball, or throw them in the air.”

Particularly difficult is when Giovanna reminds her father of how handsome he is, but then innocently asks him what happened to his hair, eyebrows and lashes.

“You try to keep things on a need to know basis, which is not easy when dealing with curious kids,” said Charles.

While Charles might look like the kind of guy that things have often come easy to, the reality is that his beginnings were far from auspicious. But, he says, his often challenging Chicago childhood blessed him with the steely resolve that has helped him so much during the arduous journey he is now on.

“I had it pretty rough growing up,” he explained. “I remember the lights and the heat being shut off and eating mustard sandwiches. I went to work at 13 and always had insecurities about the future. But I always expected and saw the best in people, so when I got sick, never once did I say 'Why me?”

Since taking a leave of absence from Shobox, the outpouring of support from the boxing community has warmed Charles’s heart. For a guy that is battling for his life, he actually considers himself fortunate to be surrounded by so much goodness in both his personal and professional lives.

“I always hear that boxing people are ruthless, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Charles. “I’ve probably received about 1,000 e-mails, and people are always following in sending their best wishes. From the relatively unknown people in boxing to many of the more famous people, there has been an outpouring of true affection.”

Charles said that the Top Rank organization has been exceedingly kind and gracious. He was touched beyond description when he learned that officials in Oklahoma got special permission to have a seamstress sew “Keep Fighting Nick” onto their sleeves. He chokes up when talking about cut man Stitch Duran giving up an endorsement opportunity so he could put Charles’s name on his outfit. He never tires of hearing shout-outs from fighters on television.

Charles has always been a people person with an inordinate faith in the goodness of his fellow man. Battling this illness has only made his already strong faith in humanity even stronger.

“Adversity is a great teacher, and it really teaches you who your genuine friends are,” said Charles. “I have a lot of friends.”

He also has a remarkable wife, Cory, a CNN producer to whom he has been married for 11 years. She is the daughter of an electrician, a self-made woman who exudes all of the warmth of her native Brooklyn. She has reinforced her husband’s spiritual base by her love, optimism and strength of character.

“If I get down, she reminds me to not get too caught up,” said Charles. “I believe in eternity, and that has put me pretty much at peace.”

More than anything else, Charles wants to get himself back behind a microphone sooner rather than later, and hopefully on Shobox. He is the first to admit that viewers “don’t watch the series to see Nick Charles,” but he is proud of the fact that he was “part of the identity” of such a popular show.

“And people love comeback stories,” added Charles. “That’s the message I’m getting from the people out there.”

In boxing the word “champion” is often overused because it pertains only to winning belts and receiving worldwide recognition for being the best at your craft. The reality is that life’s real champions have other qualities, such as the innate ability to treat people well and always make them feel better about themselves, especially when the recipients of the goodwill are in no position to give them anything back.

By that standard of measure, Charles is as much, if not more of a champion than all of the boxers he has covered during the nine years that Shobox has been on the air.

I know I speak for scores of others when I say, “Happy New Year, Champ. We hope that you are the comeback story of the year in 2010.”

Continue Reading