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April 7, 2001: Hamed vs Barrera


“I’m right here coaching the best featherweight of all time.”

None aside from Emanuel Steward spoke these phrases, three weeks earlier than Prince Naseem Hamed confronted Marco Antonio Barrera within the largest little battle cash might purchase in 2001. Manny had simply arrived at Hamed’s Palm Springs coaching camp when he made his declaration to a cameraman filming for British tv. Steward was at all times a sucker for giant punchers, so with that in thoughts maybe we will flip a blind eye to a moderately suspect assertion which little question triggered George Dixon, Jim Driscoll, Johnny Kilbane, Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler and several other others to spin of their graves. However regardless of Steward’s excessive reward and spirits, what he encountered upon his arrival in Palm Springs represented a get up name which each the legendary coach and his champion couldn’t ignore.

Naseem Hamed. Ink drawing by Damien Burton.

Whereas Hamed had already been coaching for 4 weeks earlier than Manny’s arrival, he’d spent most of that point attempting to do away with about 35 kilos of extra weight which hung stubbornly to his 5’ 4’’ body. This helped clarify his subpar efficiency in sparring that day, which left Steward aggravated and apologetic earlier than the cameras. “Gotta do much more work!” was Steward’s chilly retort when the journalist requested whether or not he favored what he noticed within the ring.

Wanting again, it might be exhausting to understand the huge media phenomenon Naseem Hamed had develop into. Steamrolling tepid opposition and upping the showmanship ante with every subsequent ring entrance, Hamed cultivated unparalleled recognition amid the decrease weight lessons, which helped him accrue over $40 million in purses earlier than assembly Barrera. Due to a stoppage win over a pale Wilfredo Vasquez three years earlier than, he was the lineal champion, boasting an undefeated report of 32 knockouts in 34 fights. The encounter with the “Child-Confronted Murderer” would internet him an additional $8.5 million, an incredible sum for a featherweight, even this present day. To place issues in perspective, Manny Pacquiao didn’t make even half that for any battle throughout his featherweight heyday.

Steward and Hamed

Steward and Hamed.

Marco Antonio Barrera was additionally making ready in California for the battle, within the small metropolis of Massive Bear only a couple hours’ drive from Palm Springs. Marco was a much more achieved boxer than anybody Hamed would ever face, to not point out extra achieved than Hamed himself. Nonetheless, the Mexican was a stable 3-to-1 underdog, and among the many boxing intelligentsia his odds had been significantly worse, as solely two out of 30 “specialists” polled on battle night time would decide him to win. However none of this bothered Barrera, who, when requested whether or not he felt jealous of Hamed’s recognition, declared he was grateful for it. At $1.8 million, his cheque for this battle was simply the most important he’d ever cashed.

Looking back, maybe those that so confidently picked in opposition to the Mexican had been guided by latest historical past and nothing else. Regardless of his extremely unorthodox combating type—his fingers hanging by his waist, his punches huge and lunging, his legs at all times struggling awkwardly in opposition to gravity’s pull on his unbalanced higher physique—Hamed harnessed punching energy of the kind that left followers’ mouths agape and opponents mendacity flat on the canvas. Eight months earlier, Naz had scored an impressively violent knockout over Augie Sanchez, who needed to be carried away on a stretcher.

Barrera, then again, was on the comeback path after his grueling struggle with Erik Morales, which noticed him drop a controversial break up choice. In distinction to Hamed, and regardless of being the identical age because the Brit, the 27-year-old Barrera was already a well-tested former champion with memorable battles in opposition to Kennedy McKinney, Jesse Benavides, Junior Jones and Morales beneath his belt. Moreover, in difficult Hamed for the featherweight championship, Marco was developing in weight, a less-than-ideal circumstance for somebody about to face a harmful puncher. However with a punishing jab and a dynamite left hook to the physique, the courageous Barrera was unafraid to combine it up, possessing an uncanny consciousness for when to press the motion and when to attend and react to his opponent to unleash his offense.

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Hamed’s energy, vanity and flashy entrances had been all a part of his attraction.

The distinction in combating types was solely a part of the story. A kind of fable was being written, to which Hamed vs Barrera would supply the ending. Whereas Hamed’s luxurious way of life and extraordinary ego had been properly documented, there was a sense that his success had arrived too quickly, and maybe too simply. The conflict with Barrera marked an extended overdue step up in competitors, the final word take a look at of “The Prince’s” true high quality. Victory would function vindication of his God-given expertise and go a way in the direction of justifying his vainness. Defeat, then again, would characterize a serious fall from grace, and maybe even opprobrium from his followers who had swallowed entire the concept of Hamed as a once-in-a-lifetime expertise, regardless of his lack of credentials and full disregard of traditional boxing approach.

In looking for simply the suitable opponent for Hamed’s crowning, Manny Steward had steered away from one other proficient Mexican in Juan Manuel Marquez, whose counterpunching type Steward thought of the right antidote to Hamed’s, and settled as a substitute for Barrera, whom he perceived to be extra of a brawler and thus a greater goal for Hamed’s explosive punches. Observers  and odds-makers appeared to purchase into this storyline, however what many failed to comprehend was that Hamed’s lack of focus in coaching and his overconfidence had been colluding in opposition to him. Along with his struggles to make weight, Hamed appeared much less apprehensive about “The Child-Confronted Murderer” than about trying good for the cameras, getting the most effective suite on the MGM Grand, and flying in his hairdresser in time for the battle.

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Many thought he was on the best way down, however Barrera remained a battle-hardened warrior.

To compound all this, as a substitute of an over-the-hill Barrera, the model Hamed encountered on the MGM Grand was one able to placed on the efficiency of a lifetime. In making ready for Naz, the Mexican had a terrific camp, coaching with the ascetic focus and depth of a Tibetan monk. “Hamed talks and talks about Allah, however Allah received’t assist him when he’s within the ring,” a assured Barrera, unbothered by Hamed’s notions of predestination, advised the press. Moreover, the Mexican went out of his approach to emphasize his need to go to struggle with Hamed, psyching the champion into considering he might depend on his thunderous left hand to counter-punch the Mexican.

Thus, on reflection, the stage was set for a serious upset. In spite of everything, Hamed was not alone in believing his God-given expertise can be greater than sufficient to defeat Barrera. 1000’s of British trustworthy congregated on the MGM Grand Backyard Area to see their hero go to battle, and the percentages and specialists additionally backed Naseem’s energy over no matter Barrera had left within the tank. But when the Mexican took offense to the unflattering odds or the put-downs from the media, he didn’t present it. A serene Marco walked to the ring sporting a poker face which made it clear that going to struggle with a harmful puncher confused him about as a lot as a go to to the publish workplace.

Hamed vs Barrera

On the bell, the distinction of personalities was shortly evident. The primary spherical noticed the flashy Naz play to the gang and grimace at Barrera as he head-hunted together with his highly effective left hand, able to pounce as quickly as Barrera attacked. However it quickly grew to become evident Marco was not going to convey the battle to Naseem. As an alternative, the challenger boxed cautiously: probing with a stiff jab, sometimes adopted by a straight proper, and touchdown some heavy counter left hooks that rocked Naz’s unsteady head when The Prince received off first. On the finish of the spherical, to punctuate his dominance, the Mexican shot three fierce jabs in succession at Hamed’s head, an irreverent and surprising transfer which made it clear that Naz was in for an extended night time.

Within the second, Hamed turned up the tough techniques to try to assert himself, shoving and grabbing after he missed with left fingers to disclaim the challenger an opportunity to counter. Barrera, at all times the proud warrior, refused to be bullied. With just a little over a minute left within the stanza Hamed lunged ahead and missed with a wild proper, just for the Mexican to deal with him to the canvas after which pin him there as if saying, Sufficient of that!

Hamed vs Barrera

Drawing by Damien Burton

By the center rounds, each fighters had been totally dedicated to their methods. Hamed tried time and again to land his power-shots, however Barrera’s plan to circle away from Hamed’s left put him in an ideal spot to fireside his personal left hooks, which related with authority on Hamed’s physique and head. At this level it grew to become evident Hamed had no plan B and, until he received within the fortunate shot that would flip issues round, his one-dimensionality can be his undoing. Alternatively, regardless of his success, Barrera remained affected person and refused to have interaction in a brawl, figuring out this might give Naz the most effective likelihood to capitalize on his energy.

Within the second half of the battle Barrera pulled forward on the scorecards, additional exposing Hamed’s tactical weaknesses and lack of creativity. On the identical time, the Brit’s inexperience and poor preparation disallowed him from competing in opposition to a prime expertise who—regardless of the incantations of the media–was not in the slightest degree over the hill, not but anyway. As 1000’s of Mexicans cheered his countryman on, the ticketholders who had travelled throughout the Atlantic—to not point out the “specialists” who had picked in opposition to Barrera—puzzled simply what the hell was happening. Hamed vs Barrera was proving to be a one-sided rout as Barrera placed on a boxing clinic in opposition to a harmful puncher when each assertion he had made earlier than the match indicated he wished to brawl. The Mexican had utterly re-written the script everybody had memorized, turning what was purported to be Hamed’s coronation right into a humiliation.

Hamed vs Barrera

By spherical ten Manny Steward began begging Naz for a knockout, however by the point the bell rang for the twelfth Barrera was simply three minutes away from a dominant win. Nonetheless, Hamed got here out swinging within the last stanza, looking for the one huge shot that would salvage the night time and his undefeated report. Hamed’s reckless assault didn’t impress Barrera, nonetheless, who determined to place an finish to Naz’s frenetic swinging by trapping Hamed in an arm-lock and pinning him face-first to a nook publish, like a cop apprehending an insolent hoodlum.

Barrera misplaced a degree for that transfer, however this would show a mere footnote in what grew to become considered one of Marco’s best performances and maybe his largest win. Or, maybe Marco’s arm-locking of Hamed serves as a pleasant allegory of the competition: a visible illustration of the domination of consummate professionalism and hard-won knowledge over Hamed’s unrefined ring gymnastics. In any case, it was now clear to all who was the superior fighter; all three scorecards declared Barrera the winner and new featherweight champion of the world.

Hamed vs Barrera

Barrera had examined the phenomenon that was Hamed, and regardless of his mass following, thousands and thousands of {dollars} within the financial institution, Manny Steward being in his nook, and a depraved punch, The Prince didn’t give you any solutions on battle night time. Barrera proved that within the face of an ideal problem the most effective recipe is a centered strategy and full dedication to the duty at hand, versus vanity and self-entitlement. In boxing, true greatness can’t be manufactured, and it definitely isn’t God-given; quite the opposite, it must be earned by means of exhausting work and sacrifice. Barrera understood this fact; it’s exhausting to know whether or not Hamed ever did.

Steward would declare years later that Hamed’s overconfidence received in the best way of his preparation for Barrera. “It’s a disgrace Hamed by no means fought Barrera once more,” Steward stated, believing the outcome would’ve been totally different in a rematch with a fully-focused Prince. Nevertheless, regardless of Hamed’s declaration within the post-fight interview that he would train his rematch clause in opposition to the Mexican, Naz by no means did; he fought another time earlier than retiring for good. The Prince cited his brittle fingers as the explanation for hanging up the gloves, however as a substitute of fragile bones one wonders if it wasn’t extra a case of Naseem’s fragile confidence sustaining a blow from which it might by no means get better. The lights had been by no means brighter, the stage by no means grander, and on that night time Hamed was not solely defeated; he was embarrassed. The actual fact he by no means took his shot at redemption solely provides to the case in opposition to him as a really nice fighter.

Hamed vs Barrera

As issues turned out, the night time of April 7, 2001 was not about Naseem Hamed, as so many had thought. As an alternative it was in regards to the resurgence of Marco Antonio Barrera who, after his nice upset win, launched into a future on the prime, happening to earn thousands and thousands in battles with Morales, Marquez, Johnny Tapia, Kevin Kelley and Manny Pacquiao. Barrera definitely made probably the most of his shot at glory, and by doing so modified our notion of his skills. The Hamed battle marks a watershed in Barrera’s profession, as he shifted from a brawling type to that of an environment friendly boxer. Displaying persistence and intelligence, however with out abandoning his ferocity, Barrera took middle stage on the theater of the surprising and dismantled the wild and harmful opponent favored to defeat him. Given the stakes concerned and the shocking method by which the match unfolded, it’s the kind of victory we’ll bear in mind for an extended, very long time to return.

–Rafael Garcia

The publish April 7, 2001: Hamed vs Barrera appeared first on The Combat Metropolis.