Date: 19th February 2000
Venue: Mandalay Bat, Las Vegas, Nevada
Title: Super-Bantamweight Unification
Result: Morales W 12 split decision
In the first of what would become a trilogy neither man could afford to loose. The significance of the fight was clear, two great Mexican warriors with a genuine dislike for each other, both had massive native followings who crossed the border to root for their man. Going into the contest there was one common opponent, Junior Jones who had beaten Barrera twice but a year later was dropped in four by Morales. On this basis Morales was the slight betting favourite.
From the opening bell there was no settling in period, jabbing for distance or tactical awareness. It was clear both men were looking for the knockout. Suicide tactics you would think, but when two fighters are truly at their peak and are mentally and physically conditioned to go the championship distance, it makes the perfect recipe for a thrilling spectacle.
Barrera (the baby faced assassin), came out the aggressor of the two but struggled to dominate, as the unbeaten Morales landed with a variety of punches from an assortment of angles. When keeping his distance Morales looked in control, but he ditched his advantages in height and reach, and like most great Mexicans he opted to stand toe to toe. This was Barrera territory and it was he who landed with the more effective looking punches. The infamous fifth round witnessed Morales land with everything in a sustained attack, then with a minute left in the round the baby faced assassin broke from his defensive shell, to launch with a sustained attack of his own which very nearly gave Morales his first taste of the canvas in his career.
Over the years there has been some unforgettable match-ups between great Mexican fighters in this division, and by the mid rounds of this contest it was becoming apparent this would stand a test of comparison with any of them. One that springs to mind is the encounter in 1982, between Puerto Rican, Wilfredo Gomez and Mexican, Lupe Pintor when the two met in New Orleans. Both fought at a frantic pace for 14 rounds before Pintor collapsed, forcing the referee to stop the contest.
The later rounds in this fight was a display of pride, courage, heart and a sheer will to win. Barrera seemed to finish the stronger in the eleventh landing with his trademark left to the body.v Many at ringside thought the fight was so close whoever won the last round may well win the fight, and who could argue. With a fight of this intensity whoever won the last round may just have deserved the decision. At times in the final round both looked to had given their all, and were fighting on instinct at times. Neither man had gained an advantage within the first two minuets, then it was Barrera who landed with a flurry of punches which wobbled Morales who’s knee looked to touch the canvas. Referee Mitch Halpern ruled a knockdown, and for the first time in his career Morales was receiving a count, he protested, and with good reason no punch had landed, however it could have been a delayed reaction from the Barrera assault. When the fight resumed both traded in centre ring sending those in attendance to their feet in appreciation. The bell sounded bringing to an end one of the best fights ever witnessed at 122 lbs.
Erik Morales won a split decision, then in a great show of sportsmanship and respect, he handed Barrera back his WBO belt for the performance he had put into the fight. Both camps could make a valid argument, at times Morales looked the busier, but Barrera was landing with the more effective shots. At times when you thought one man had done enough to win the round, the other would launch an attack that made it hard not to reconsider your decision.
|35-0 (28)||Pro Rec||49-2 (36)|
|121 lbs||Weight||121 lbs|
|5' 8"||Height||5' 6"|