Marco Antonio Barrera: “Baby Faced Assassin!”: A Biography

Marco Antonio Barrera
  • DOB: January 17, 1974 – Mexico City, Mexico.
  • Gym(s): ‘Gym – Marco Antonio Barrera’.
  • Location: Mexico City.
  • Trainer(s): Rudy Perez (RIP).
  • Boxing Career: Amateur, Professional, and TV Star: ‘HBO’s – Boxing After Dark’.
  • Nicknames: Baby-Faced Assassin. El Barrera
  • Height: 5 Foot 6 inches. 168cm.
  • Reach: 70 inches. 178cm.
  • Stance: Orthodox –Though he was naturally left handed!
  • Weights fought at: Super flyweightSuper bantamweight, Featherweight, Super featherweight, Lightweight.

Professional Record: 

  • Total Fights: 75
  • Wins: 67
  • Wins by KO: 44
  • Losses: 7
  • No contests 1
  • Draws 0

Notable Fights: Marco Antonio Barrera vs Junior Jones, Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales I,II,III, Marco Antonio Barrera vs Naseem Hamed, Marco Antonio Barrera vs Manny Pacquiao I,II, Marco Antonio Barrera vs Juan Manual Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera vs Amir Khan.

Marco Antonio Barrera: Overview 

Marco Antonio Barrera or Marco Antonio Barrera Tapia to give him his full name is a former Mexican professional boxer who competed from 1989 to 2011 during which time he held multiple world championships, including:

  • The WBO junior featherweight title twice between 1995 and 2001
  • The Ring Magazine and lineal featherweight titles from 2001 to 2003. 
  • And the unified WBC and IBF Super featherweight titles from 2004 to 2007. 

Marco Antonio Barrera’s career was especially noted for his winning trilogy of fights with fellow Mexican Erik Morales, his not so successful but engaging duology with Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao and his conflicts with both Naseem Hamed and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Early Life and Amateur Career

Unlike many of his contemporaries Marco Antonio Barrera was born into an affluent family on the 17th January, 1974 in Mexico City. His father a businessman wanted his son to take over his undertakings. However, whilst Marco Antonio Barrera would attend university and study law in between his early fights, he would drop out when his boxing career took off and he became a local hero. His passion for the sport apparent from a very young age due to his older brother Jorge Barrera, (a known amateur boxer in his hometown), instilling an early passion in Marco Antonio Barrera for ‘the ring’ and the desire to be a champion boxer.

The Professional

Marco Antonio Barrera made his professional debut on the 22nd of November, 1989 in emphatic style. At the age of just fifteen Marco Antonio Barrera knocked out David Felix, in only round two, which proved the first of a 43 victory winning streak.

First professional title (Super flyweight)

During both 1990 and 1991 Marco Antonio Barrera fought seven times in each year defeating some quality fighters in Ivan Salazar, Abel Hinojosa and Javier Diaz amongst others. Barrera raised his game further in 1992 by beating Justino Suarez on the 1st of April 1992 in a twelve round unanimous decision to win the Mexico flyweight title. Proceeding to retain the title three times before the end of the year which immeasurably improved his ranking in the Super flyweight division.

1993 would see Marco Antonio Barrera continue a-pace winning six more bouts including a re- match over Justino Salazar and a victory over Noe Santillana. 1994 yielding further notable victories over future champion Carlos Salazar and former world champion Eddie Cook. Victories which would set him up for his first world title shot.

First world title (Super bantamweight)

On the 31st of March 1995, Marco Antonio Barrera became the WBO super bantamweight champion of the world by defeating Puerto Rican boxer Daniel Jiménez in a unanimous decision over twelve rounds in Anaheim, California. 

Indeed, such an impact was Marco Antonio Barrera making at this time in his career that many boxing journalist were calling him “Mexico’s next Julio César Chávez.” 

Notable fights and defences

Incredibly, Marco Antonio Barrera would not let up, he made four defences before the year was over: 

  • On the 2nd of June, 1995 Frank Toledo was knocked down twice before the fight was stopped in the second round. 
  • On the 15th of July 1995, Marco Antonio Barrera scored a blistering first-round knockout win over Maui Díaz (27–1). 
  • Whilst in his third defence, he would win a twelve-round unanimous decision over future champion Agapito Sánchez.

Finally, on the 6th of February, 1996, he fought on the first instalment of HBO Boxing’s spin-off series “HBO Boxing After Dark.” Barrera knocking Kennedy Mckinney down five times in one of the fights of the year before stopping him in 12 rounds.*

*Nb Marco Antonio Barrera did suffer one knockdown himself during this epic fight.

Former WBO champion Jesse Benavides would follow by third-round knockout. Before on the 14th, July 1996, he defeated another former champion, in Orlando Fernandez, by seventh-round TKO and Jesse Magana just two months later again by TKO in round 10. Taking his record to 43 and 0 in under six years.

Marco Antonio Barrera: First Professional loss(es)

On the 22nd November, 1996 the ‘baby faced assassin’ would suffered his first professional career loss and title to American boxer Junior Jones. Round 5 ending in disqualification for Marco Antonio Barrera when his corner man climber into the ring to stop the fight as Barrera had been knocked down and was on the verge of being finished by Jones. 

Marco Antonio Barrera: Retirement 

When on the 18th April, 1997 in Las Vegas, Barrera was given the chance to regain his title but lost his rematch against Jones in a slightly controversial unanimous 12 round decision, Marco Antonio decided to retire. 

Comeback 

In 1998, Marco Antonio Barrera announced his return to boxing by winning a second world championship, the WBO Super bantamweight title after defeating Richie Wenton by knockout in 3 rounds. The next year (1999), he retained his title twice before running into controversy in his third fight of that year. Apparently, after defeating César Najera by TKO in four rounds on the 18th December the California State Athletic Commission ruled the fight a no contest after learning Cesar Najera actually had a losing record and was also allegedly part of Barrera’s team!

This would pale into comparison however compared with what happened at the start of his trilogy with Erik Morales.

Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales (I)

On the 19th February, 2000, Marco Antonio Barrera fought up and coming fellow Mexican legend Erik Morales with whom he’d had ‘bad blood’ for years. The fight proved an absolute classic, with both fighters standing ‘toe to toe’ and brawling ‘round for round’ from start to finish. Take a look at some of the highlights of this truly barbaric battle.

Erik Morales would win by controversial split decision though many fans thought Barrera had won it due to a knockdown that he scored in the twelfth and final round. Indeed, the decision was so controversial that after the bout, the WBO reinstated Barrera as their champion (whist Morales kept his WBC title) and he defended it three additional times with wins over Luiz Freitas, Jose Luis Valbuena and Jesus Salud. 

*The Ring nevertheless named it ‘Fight of the Year’ (2000) regardless of the controversy that surrounded it.

Featherweight

The next remarkable milestone in Marco Antonio Barrera’s career came after he moved in up weight divisions to face the ‘cock-sure’ Naseem Hamed. A very good article describing the events of the fight in general can be viewed here. But regardless of circumstance what was apparent that night was that Marco Antonio Barrera bullied, battered and schooled ‘The Prince’ like no one else, before or after. Take a look at some of the outstanding highlights here

Barrera in his own words describing it as “Definitely the best fight I had… my best victory was against Naseem Hamed”

In doing so he also won the lineal and IBO featherweight titles despite being a 3-1 underdog going into the fight.

A subsequent victory over Enrique Sanchez led to the fight Marco Antonio Barrera craved: A rematch with Erik Morales.

Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales (II)

Lineal Champion, Marco Antonio Barrera would avenge his defeat to Erik Morales in a controversial majority decision on the 22nd of June, 2002, in a re-match of their classic fight from February 2000. 

Though Morales pressed and dominated much of the first half of the fight clearly winning at least 4 of the first 6 rounds. Marco Antonio Barrera, opened up a cut on the bridge of Morales’ nose in the 2nd round, and another cut plus significant swelling over Morales right eye in round 8. 

In an ironic twist of events (to that of the first fight) Erik Morales punched Barrera to the canvas during the middle rounds though it was contentiously ruled a slip. Thereby, although Morales seemed to have narrowly done enough to secure victory with marginal wins in rounds 10 and 11 – Marco Antonio Barrera ultimately won a split decision which many thought he had lost. It was not a popular or well respected verdict however, though it may indeed have been ‘poetic justice’ for the first fight which most thought Marco Antonio Barrera had won. 

An appraisal of the fight can be viewed here where some notable names of the fight industry voiced their opinions on the result.

Marco Antonio Barrera – More notable fights and defences.

In 2002, Marco Antonio Barrera also defended his lineal and IBO featherweight titles against Johnny Tapia, and Kevin Kelley. His excellent form continued until 2003 when he was defeated by Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Marco Antonio Barrera vs Manny Pacquiao (I)

Is a fight which is best summed up by viewing the highlights

As well as reading the following account here of a dominant performance by Manny Pacquiao which announced the severity of his arrival on the world stage. 

Super featherweight

Marco Antonio Barrera was not a fighter to quit however and in 2004 he started competing in the Super featherweight division and after defeating Paulie Ayala, Barrera would win the WBC super featherweight world championship, during his ‘rubber’ match with Erik Morales.This making him a three-division world champion.

Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales (III)

Many people actually questioned Marco Antonio Barrera taking this fight at the time as Erik Morales was in blistering form whilst Barrera was coming off a terrible loss to Manny Pacquiao. Nevertheless, whilst most thought Barrera was a spent force the fight turned out to be anything but and on the 27th of November 2004, Marco Antonio Barrera proved everyone wrong when he defeated Erik Morales for a second time.

The fight was nevertheless close with the judges scorecards only separating these Mexican legends by a single point: 114–114, 114–115, 113–115 in favour of Barrera.

It should be noted however, that this is the only fight between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales in which the people and general boxing community agreed and did not question the decision. This third meeting once again named The Ring – ‘Fight of the Year’ (2004).

Thereafter Marco Antonio Barrera would retain this title throughout 2004 and 2005 with four wins including two by split decision and unanimous decision respectively over Rocky Juarez.

The career begins to slide.

The downhill trajectory of Marco Antonio Barrera’s career began with two notable loses. Firstly on the 17th March, 2007 Barrera lost his WBC Super featherweight title to fellow Mexican boxer Juan Manuel Márquez in a unanimous but controversial decision. Barrera having clearly knocked Marquez down in the seventh round (which the referee ruled a slip) was still ahead on the HBO scorecards without that knockdown so felt righteously aggrieved.

However, in his next fight, a second straight loss to Manny Pacquiao in a rematch bout on the 6th of October 2007 for the WBC International Super featherweight title, Marco Antonio Barrera could have no such complaints. Defeated on the cards by scores of 118–109, 118–109 and 115–112. 

Thereafter Marco Antonio Barrera’s career suffered a mixture of success and failure. He would win four of his last five fights yet would fail in his goal of becoming the first Mexican fighter to win a title at 4 different weights. A clash of heads in the fifth round against Amir Khan on the 14th March 2009 putting an end to that particular dream. With the referee stopping the fight in the 5th round due to a deep gash on Barrera’s forehead.  

Retirement, personal life & present day.

Marco Antonio Barrera would nevertheless go out somewhat on a high by winning his last two fights, before permanently retiring in 2011. Continuing his work in boxing as an analyst for TV Azteca whilst managing several fighters in the gym that he owned in Mexico City. 

A quiet reserved man Marco Antonio Barrera is known to say little about his personal life other than his family is very important to him. He is currently married to his wife Sandra Barrera.

Marco Antonio Barrera: Accolades.

As well as the notable achievements already mentioned Marco Antonio Barrera,

  • Held a record of 21-4 in championship fights. 
  • Was ranked by BoxRec as the 89th greatest pound for pound boxer of all time.
  • And by ESPN as number 43 on their list of the 50 greatest boxers of all time.

Moreover: