Monday, October 8, 2007

Three Career Endings: 1. Reflected Upon, 2. Wished For, 3. Accursed

A gentleman out of the ring except when it came to hated enemy Erik Morales, Barrera was a snarling, sneering and ruthless competitor between the ropes -- punching Juan Manuel Marquez when he was down, hitting Manny Pacquiao on the break Saturday, and mauling Naseem Hamed, pictured at right, by shoving his face into a ring post and more. Oh, and he was really, really good.

Saturday brought the end of one historic career, the next step in the car-crash comeback of another and the likely woeful conclusion to a third.
  1. Adios, Marco Antonio Barrera. Anyone who's followed boxing for the last decade or so knows that, with Barrera having retired after Saturday's defeat at the hands of Manny Pacquiao -- kryptonite to Mexican fighters and Barrera in particular -- the sport is losing one of its all-time greats, and one of the most entertaining warriors of any era. I briefly visited his list of accomplishments before, but it's worth revisiting more fully here, because it's truly worthy of awe when they're all stacked up. Titles at junior featherweight (122 lbs.), featherweight (126) and junior lightweight (130). Ring Magazine fights of the year and rounds of the year in 2000 and 2004. Fight of the year candidates in 1996, 2006 and 2007, if not more years. Persistent inhabitant of unofficial top 10 "pound for pound" lists of best fighters since around the turn of the century, and before that, on and off starting in the mid-90s. One half of one of boxing's greatest trilogies, where he won two of three versus Erik Morales. Sixty-three wins, including victories against Naseem Hamed -- in one of his greatest performances, a dismantling of the popular Hamed's legend -- Morales, Kennedy McKinney, Johnny Tapia, Paulie Ayala, Daniel Jiminez, Luis Freitas, Kevin Kelley and Rocky Juarez. Definitive losses against only Pacquiao and Junior Jones, and borderline losses that could have gone Barerra's way against Jones in their second meeting, Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez. Ring Magazine comeback of the year in 2004, one of several dramatic career rebirths. One of the top five -- or at worst, top 10 -- Mexican fighters ever, quite a big deal in a country with as strong a boxing tradition as any other on the planet. A first ballot hall-of-famer. I could say a great deal more about Barrera in an attempt to give him his due praise, but what he did in the ring kinda glorifies itself, doesn't it?
  2. Andrew Golota, please go away. "The Foul Pole" -- infamous for his in-ring meltdowns such as his two straight disqualifications against Riddick Bowe, which he earned by punching Bowe in the nuts endlessly -- is making yet another comeback bid in the wasteland that is the heavyweight division, with his latest and most noteworthy win coming this weekend over shell-of-Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin McBride. I was about to say the only fight I want to see Golota in is one where he's a sacrificial lamb and KO victim for some up-and-comer, but forgot my rule about wishing suffering on the mentally ill. I shouldn't villianize him. I just plain want him to go away.
  3. My condolences, Jose Antonio Rivera. It saddens me that Rivera probably is never going to get his one big chance, which looks farther away than ever after his knockout loss to Daniel Santos on Saturday. Rivera is about as lovable a person you'll find in a sport where the goal is to bludgeon your opponent into unconsciousness. He's nice and humble and has said time and again that all he wants before he retires is a major money fight to make it easier to provide for his family. He's a court security officer by day who has enough skill, heart and power to have spent much of his nighttime career just on the periphery of that fight, save for some awful luck. In 2004, he missed the money train when then-welterweight (147 lbs.) flavor of the month Ricardo Mayorga bailed out of a scheduled meeting. In 2005 he lost a title shot to Luis Collazo, weight-drained in part because he'd not been able to train full-time due to his day job. Beloved in his hometown of Worcester, Mass., he was given time off in 2006 to train for a junior middleweight (154 lbs.) title fight against Alejandro Garcia, which he won entertainingly but which nobody saw because it happened the same night that Oscar De La Hoya beat up Mayorga. Then, earlier this year, because of some complicated circumstances with the belt-sanctioning organization, he was forced into a mandatory defense and disastrous style matchup against the far slicker, faster Travis Simms. Now the road back to a title shot and subsequent millions is almost infinitely long for a 34-year-old with two straight KO losses, and ESPN writes that his career is probably over. He's getting into the boxing promotion business back in Massachusetts, and I wish him luck for once there -- although reports are that he's off to a rocky start, having run into some trouble with the state's boxing bureaucracy, poetically if cruelly.

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