CARSON, Calif. -- Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera returns to the ring for the first time since suffering a crushing defeat when he meets Paulie Ayala in a featherweight bout Saturday night outdoors at the Home Depot Center.
Barrera (57-4, 40 KOs) was considered the top featherweight in the world when he was soundly beaten in an 11th-round technical knockout loss to Manny Pacquaio in November. Also recognized as one of boxing's best pound-for-pound fighters, Barrera needs a victory to secure a possible rematch against Pacquaio, a rubber match against Erik Morales, or face countryman Juan Manuel Marquez, who holds two-thirds of the 126-pound featherweight crown.
Nicknamed "The Baby-Faced Assassin," the 30-year-old Barrera had won eight straight bouts before losing to Pacquaio.
A former bantamweight champion, the 34-year-old Ayala (35-2, 12 KOs) won two exciting brawls with Johnny Tapia in 1999 and 2000, but like Barrera, is at a crossroad in his career. Two fights ago, Ayala was outclassed over 12 rounds by Morales for the then-vacant WBC featherweight title in November 2002.
In his last fight, Ayala returned to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas and outpointed Edel Ruiz in November.
Also on the card, undefeated middleweight prospect Jermain Taylor meets former junior middleweight champion Raul Marquez in an intriguing matchup of former Olympians.
A 2000 bronze medalist at the Sydney Games, Taylor is taking a step up in competition as he marches toward a possible title shot late this year or early in 2005.
But the 25-year-old Taylor will have his hands full with Marquez, a veteran southpaw, who is prone to cuts.
A silver medalist in the 1992 Olympics, Marquez (35-2, 24 KOs, 1 no-contest) once held the IBF junior middleweight title, and made two successful defenses before losing to Yory Boy Campas via an eighth-round stoppage in December 1997. Three fights later, Marquez suffered the second loss of his career when he was stopped by Fernando Vargas in the eight round in July 1999.
The 32-year-old Marquez is unbeaten in his last six fights (5-0, 4 KOs, 1 no-contest). The bouts will be televised by HBO beginning at 9:45 p.m ET.
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