Sunday, June 23, 2002

Barrera wins rematch against Morales

AP Boxing Writer

        LAS VEGAS — The rematch was almost as good as their first fight. Only this time the result was different.

        A fight for national pride and the claim to be the world's best featherweight went 12 bruising rounds Saturday night before Marco Antonio Barrera was awarded a unanimous decision over WBC champion Erik Morales.

        Barrera avenged a split decision loss to Morales in their first bout two years ago by waging a tactical fight early and then taking it to the champion in the later rounds.

        Morales rushed from the ring after the decision was announced, tears streaming down a face swollen and cut by Barrera in a fight that had the crowd on its feet cheering the final minutes.

        “It was a close fight,” Barrera said. “I did my job. I came in to outbox him.”

        Before the decision was announced, Barrera went over to the corner of Morales and tried to make amends for the bitterness between the two rivals leading up to the fight.

        “It was a great fight and we should be friends,” Barrera told Morales.

        The two fighters combined for 1,206 punches — not quite the 1,500 they threw in the first bout — but neither was knocked down and neither ever appeared seriously hurt.

        Two judges had Barrera winning 115-113, while a third had him ahead 116-112. All three gave Barrera five of the last six rounds.

        The Associated Press had Barrera winning 116-112.

        “Like in the first fight I controlled the fight,” Morales said. “I still think I won the fight.”

        The hotly anticipated rematch pitted two Mexicans against each other with more than the 126-pound title on the line. Morales is from Tijuana and Barrera from Mexico City and the they played up their regional differences.

        Barrera (55-3, 39 knockouts) said before the fight that he wouldn't take the WBC belt, because of past difficulties with the organization. The WBC said it would declare the title vacant.

        Unlike the first fight, when the two went toe-to-toe much of the bout, the rematch was fought at a slower pace at first although the action built to a crescendo in the final round when both punched almost nonstop.

        By then the left eye of Morales was nearly closed and he had marks on his face. Barrera was largely unscathed.

        “He didn't start fighting until the seventh round,” Morales complained.

        The atmosphere inside the nearly full MGM Grand hotel arena was festive and loud as fans of both fighters chanted their names and yelled encouragement.

        Most expected a brawl, like the first fight at 122 pounds on Feb. 19, 2000. But Barrera was determined early on to try to move and box and rarely in the early rounds did the fights engage in long exchanges.

        Barrera changed tactics in the sixth round, though, and began stalking Morales instead of the other way around. A fight that had some fans booing the lack of action soon turned into something else entirely.

        With Barrera on the attack, Morales (41-1, 31 knockouts) tried to fend him off with a snapping left jab, but Barrera still got the better of the exchanges in the middle rounds.

        Each fighter earned $2 million for a fight that drew a near sellout to the MGM Grand and was televised on pay-per-view, an indication of the popularity of the two fighters among Hispanics.

        In an earlier fight, Fernando Montiel stopped Pedro Alcazar in the sixth round in a 115-pound fight between unbeaten boxers.

        Montiel dominated the fight from the opening round and was so much in command that he began showboating in the second. He won the first five rounds on all three ringside scorecards and was pummeling a defenseless Alcazar when the fight was stopped at 1:16 of the sixth round.

        Montiel, 115, of Mexico, improved to 24-0-1 and won the WBO super flyweight title. Alcazar, also 115, of Panama, fell to 25-1-1.

        Lightweight prospect Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico extended his unbeaten streak to 10 fights with a fifth round stoppage of veteran Justin Juuko in a lightweight fight.

        Cotto knocked Juuko down with a left hook at 2:44 of the fifth round to improve to 10-0 with eight knockouts. Juuko fell to 36-7-1.


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