Mexican ring star Marco Antonio Barrera firmly believes that the rivarly of Philippines and Mexico will stay for a long time and that the two nations will continue to provide the boxing world with great and highly entertaining fights in the future.
Barrera, a former three-division world champion who became Manny Pacquiao's launching pad to stardom, is in town as special guest of last night's "Pinoy Pride XVIII:World Champion vs. World Champion" fight card at the Waterfront-Cebu City Hotel and Casino.
The 39-year-old Barrera said that just like his native land, the Philippines is one of the countries that can produce world-class athletes in the squared arena.
Of course, Pacquiao, who beat him soundly twice, is on top of his list followed by three-division Nonito Donaire, Jr.
“Mexico and Philippines are two of the greatest countries for boxing,” said Barrera over a private dinner with members of the media last Friday at the Cebu Parklane International Hotel. “Filipinos are like Mexicans, both are strong warriors inside the ring.”
Barrera fought and lost twice to Pacquiao in a showdown that stoked the fire of the now scathing Phl-Mexico rivarly.
During their first encounter, Pacquiao pulled off one of the most stunning wins in recent memory with a masterful 11th round destruction of Barrera on November 16, 2003 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Their rematch four years later yielded the same result, with the Filipino sports icon beating the Mexican legend to the pulp enroute to a one-sided unanimous decision victory.
But he doesn't have any qualms about it.
"I am happy because I know I lost to the best of the best in Manny Pacquiao. I see Manny a lot and we say hello to each other. We are friends and we meet regularly. Pacquiao is a friend to me more than Juan Manuel Marquez," he said.
Barrera, on the other hand, said Pacquiao's shocking defeat to Marquez really caught him by surprise.
“It really surprised me because I know Pacquiao is strong," he said. "But Marquez is not greater than Pacquiao. He's just got lucky during the fight. If the knockout didn’t happen, I think the result can go either way.”
Barrera said Pacquiao’s devastating loss to Marquez is not an easy thing to handle, but he knows that the Filipino sports hero has the ability to bounce back.
“When you lose you learn. I will not tell Manny to retire in boxing but he must examine his decision and that is to continue boxing or to focus in politics,” he said.
After hanging up his gloves two years ago with a 67-7 record spiked with 44KOs, Barrera knows that some people want to see him climb up the ring again.
One thing that restrained him from doing so is the sense of contentment on what he has accomplished in his illustrious career that spanned for two decades.
“I miss the people, the arena, the adrenaline of fighting again, but at the same time I am happy being outside the ring. I became three-time world champion, I fought with the best and I lost to the best of the best and that is Manny Pacquiao. I think I did the best for me in this beautiful sport.
Though no longer an active fighter, Barrera said he keeps himself fit by running around and going regularly to the gym - and doing household chores too.
“I run and I keep myself fit. I asked my wife for two last fights but I dont think he will allow me to fight again," said Barrera. "But I am happy now being a retired boxer. I do household chores. I wash clothes in my house and iron them. I cook meals and I bring my children to school. My wife gets angry if I don’t iron his clothes well," he added in slight jest.
Regarding the issue of performance enhancing drugs, Barrera became the latest addition to prominent personalities who push for a clean and drug-free boxing.
“I support the move in promoting a strict drug-testing in boxing. I noticed the body of the boxers nowadays are different from the bodies of the boxers in the past,” he said.
The future Hall of Famer even took a jab at Marquez. When asked on Marquez's increase in size and newfound punching power, Barrera quickly replied "He must have a good doctor!". (FREEMAN)