1st pacman Mexican shocker
Manny Pacquiao
STAR/ File

1st pacman Mexican shocker

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 22, 2020 - 12:00am

Barrera ONE: Most unforgettable for Manny

Super WBA welterweight champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao registered several milestone fights in his career but called his first encounter with Mexico’s Marco Antonio Barrera at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, in 2003 the most unforgettable because it signaled the beginning of his meteoric rise as a global boxing superstar.

Pacquiao could’ve picked his come-from-behind knockout over WBC flyweight titlist Chatchai Sasakul to win his first world crown in 1998 or his disposal of IBF superbantamweight champion Lehlo Ledwaba in his US debut in 2001 or his stoppage of Oscar de la Hoya to retire the Golden Boy for good in 2008 or his one-punch second round annihilation of Ricky Hatton in 2009 or his decision over Antonio Margarito in becoming the only fighter ever to capture eight world titles in eight weight divisions in 2010.

But when asked what was his most unforgettable fight, Pacquiao didn’t hesitate to pick the 2003 bout against Barrera who was a 3-1 favorite. Barrera was then 29 and Pacquiao, 24. The Mexican packed a lot more experience with 60 fights under his belt compared to Pacquiao’s 40. He was at the prime of his career, coming off eight straight victories over victims like Erik Morales, Naseem Hamed and Jesus Salud, a Hawaiian of Filipino descent.

Pacquiao checked in unbeaten in his last 12 bouts, including a technical draw with Agapito Sanchez. It was only his second featherweight fight and in his first against Kazakhstan’s Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov, Pacquiao was decked in the fourth round before returning the favor twice to end the bout in the next stanza. Although it was Pacquiao’s fifth fight in the US, he was still a relative unknown in the American market and Barrera was his first marquee opponent.

The Alamodome used to be the San Antonio Spurs’ homecourt and hosted the Julio Cesar Chavez-Pernell Whitaker duel for the WBC superlightweight crown in 1993. Because of the strong Mexican influence in San Antonio, Barrera virtually fought before a homecrowd. Referee Laurence Cole and the three judges Ray Hawkins, Gale Van Hoy and Glen Crocker were all from Texas. It seemed like the only way Pacquiao could win was to batter Barrera decisively.

Pacquiao tipped the scales at 125 and Barrera, 126 at the weigh-in. At stake was the Ring Magazine and lineal world featherweight title. When the bell rang, Pacquiao was 136 pounds and Barrera, 133. In Pacquiao’s corner were Freddie Roach, Justin Fortune and cutman Lenny de Jesus. It was reported that Pacquiao’s purse was $700,000.

In the first round, Cole erred in ruling a knockdown on Pacquiao after he lost his balance, stumbled and fell without Barrera landing a punch. Pacquiao had just connected with a left straight then leaned away from a counter left and slipped. Pacquiao attacked like a dervish in the second round, leaving Barrera bruised over and under his left eye. In the third round, Barrera was floored by a left straight and went back to his corner with a cut on his left eyelid. Pacquiao continued to dominate and in the 11th round, went for the kill. A barrage of blows capped by a left hook to the side of the body brought down Barrera. He got up then Pacquiao was all over him, raining at least 30 unanswered blows until his brother Jorge stepped onto the ring apron to signal surrender. Cole should’ve stopped it two rounds earlier and wouldn’t have waved it off if not for the intrusion. In 2010, Cole was the same referee who refused to halt Pacquiao’s massacre of Margarito and allowed it to go the distance. Pacquiao motioned to Cole at least twice during the fight to end it as Margarito was badly mauled. Cole’s imprudence left Margarito with a fractured right orbital bone.

Despite the decisive loss, Barrera wasn’t finished and went on to win the WBC superfeatherweight title in 2004. Pacquiao faced Barrera in a rematch in 2007 and won a clear decision. Throughout his career, Barrera’s only loss by knockout was to Pacquiao. Barrera was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017 while Pacquiao is guaranteed to be enshrined five years after he retires, the period of eligibility from when a fighter hangs up his gloves.

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