FILE – In this April 7, 2001 file photo, Marco Antonio Barrera raises his arms as he parades around the ring after defeating Prince Naseem Hamed for the IBO Featherweight Championship at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada , to win. (AP Photo / Kevork Djansezian, File)
For many, Marco Antonio Barrera’s boxing career in the Hall of Fame is defined by his trilogy of violent masterpieces waged against his compatriot and fierce rival Erik Morales. Scorecard: Barrera 2, Morales 1.
For me, however, it is Barrera’s performance in April 2001 against the then undefeated Prince Naseem Hamed that beats all of them.
Hamed, left-handed, incredibly clumsy and possessed of paralyzing strength, seemed unbeatable at the time. Barrera not only hit him, he exposed him – exposed him as a one-trick pony.
Saturday at the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero, Barrera, now 47 years old and retired for a decade, will step into a boxing ring to compete against his Mexican compatriot and former world champion Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Her six-round exhibition bout is at the center of a card promoted by Teresa Tapia of Albuquerque, wife of the late World Champion Johnny Tapia.
There are numerous storylines beyond Barrera-Ponce de Leon.
There is Teresa Tapia herself. 27 years after her marriage, 9½ years after the death of five-time world champion Johnny Tapia, she continues her dedication to boxing – mostly as an ongoing celebration of her late husband’s life and career.
Unofficially (source: boxrec.com) Saturday is the 12th card that she has promoted since 2011.
There’s Nicco Tapia, the 16-year-old son of Johnny and Teresa, who will make his amateur boxing debut on Saturday.
Nicco’s older brother Johnny Lorenzo Tapia made his amateur debut on his mother’s previous card on July 31st in Mescalero – he lost by split decision. Nicco should have made his debut on this card as well but retired with a hand injury.
Neither Nicco nor Lorenzo are the biological sons of Johnny Tapia. Even if they were, inheritance would not be a guarantee of a successful future in sport; Her father’s achievements in the ring were a product of his origins and his “vida loca” as well as his physical talent.
We will see.
There’s Abel Mendoza, 25-year-old El Pasoan who has become a regular at Tapia. Mendoza’s brilliant record (30-0, 23 KOs) reflects his obvious talent but was put together against mostly humble competition.
His planned opponent for Saturday, the Mexican Victor Zaleta (20-5-1, 10 KOs), may or may not represent a step up. Zaleta has lost his last three fights and, although his age is not listed on boxrec.com, has fought professionally for 14 years.
At some point Mendoza will have to take greater risks if they defeat Zaleta if they want to become more than a regional powerhouse.
And there is Ponce de Leon, Barrera’s opponent in Saturday’s show.
Daniel Ponce De Leon poses for pictures Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, after weighing in for his WBC featherweight title bout in Las Vegas against Jhonny Gonzalez. (AP Photo / Julie Jacobson)
For non-boxing fans, this match is not quite equivalent to, for example, Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe or McEnroe-Jimmy Connors. Think of Borg-Stefan Edberg or McEnroe-Jim Courier.
But certainly none of these matches would be a bad thing if they got to Mescalero, New Mexico. This is also not the case.
Ponce de Leon, 41, isn’t quite Barrera’s stature. He’s not a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame like Barrera and Johnny Tapia. Still, his résumé sparkles.
In July 2006, Ponce de Leon defeated Thailand’s Anusorn Jotjan for the WBO super bantamweight title. He defended it four times, adding the IBF belt on the side before losing the title to Juan Manuel Lopez in June 2008.
Four years later, Ponce de Leon defeated Jhonny Gonzales for the WBC featherweight title and lost the belt in his first defense to Abner Mares. In 2014 he retired.
When they appeared together at a press conference in Albuquerque in September, Barrera and Ponce de Leon made it clear that their fight was an exhibition and that they would not try to hurt or embarrass one another.
But they definitely don’t want to embarrass themselves – and absolutely show the audience why they won 112 fights and six world titles together.