Barrera calls Ayala 'very game'

Updated: June 30, 2004, 12:05 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CARSON, Calif. -- Marco Antonio Barrera knocked out Paulie Ayala in the 10th round of a featherweight fight between two former champions Saturday night.

In the co-feature, Little Rock's Jermain Taylor was credited with a ninth-round knockout of Raul Marquez to retain his WBC Continental Americas middleweight championship.

Just when ringside observers had begun to whisper that the Barrera of old -- the 'Baby-Faced Assassin' who took no prisoners -- was gone for good, the former champion who was brutally beaten by Manny Pacquiao last November showed fight fans that the fire is still there. He showed that he still has a wicked left hook to the body to go with his educated jab and footwork.

A left hook to the liver followed by a hook-cross combination put Ayala down midway through the eighth round. Another hook to the ribcage dropped Ayala for the second time before the round ended. Ayala fought his way back in the ninth round, but the former bantamweight champ ran into a perfectly timed counter right hand near the end of the 10th round. Ayala crumpled over in pain upon impact, just a split second before another evil left hook to the body from Barrera sent him sprawling to the canvass. Referee Pat Russell waved the bout off at 2:44 of the round.

"On the last knockdown, he caught me very hard in the ribs," Ayala said. "I lost my breathing. I decided to take a knee and that was it."

Before the eighth round, Barrera controlled the action so well with his jab and footwork that he took the "action" out of the bout. But midway through the seventh round, Ayala, who had lost every round to that point, decided to go for broke and press the issue. Ayala woke Barrera up with his aggression and then he paid the price. Barrera stunned him with a combination before the end of the round.

Barrera landed 231 of 593 punches, while Ayala landed 80 of 341, according to CompuBox statistics.

Barrera weighed in at 125½ pounds while Ayala was at the 126-pound featherweight limit.

Those who were whispering ringside that the older, kinder boxing version of Barrera would not be able to take Pacquiao in a rematch had to stop and take notice. The left hooks to the body that Barrera landed on the game Ayala in the next three rounds convinced many observers that maybe he can gain revenge over his Filipino nemesis and perhaps compete in all-Mexican showdowns with Juan Manuel Marquez and old-foe Erik Morales.

"I wanted to show that there's a lot more of Marco Antonio Barrera to come," Barrera, who improved to 58-4 (41), said at the post-fight press conference.

"I was surprised that I stopped him. I've seen him take the best shots from all of these good fighters. But the hard work paid off."

Prior to his fight with Pacquiao, Barrera's training camp was hampered by a string of distractions - from brush fires to the revelation that he had brain surgery in the late '90s. There's no doubt those things took away from his game vs. Pacquiao, but Barrera had also become complacent in his training and far too comfortable with his boxing skills. For this fight, he trained like an animal and when he needed the beast in the ring, it was there for him.

Ayala, who fell to 35-3, had never been stopped before. Even Morales, who beat him unmercifully two years ago, was unable to put him down.

The 34-year-old Ayala was uncertain if he would fight again.

"I'm going to talk to my wife, Leti, and I'm going to pray," Ayala said "I don't want to wind up a punching bag."

It looks like the 11-round beatdown Barrera absorbed from Pacquiao last year rekindled his hunger.

And it looks like Barrera's promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, wants to feed the veteran of their stable a title holder for his next fight.

One option is Injin Chi, the rugged WBC title holder from Korea. Another is Mike Anchondo, a young junior lightweight contender who will fight for the vacant WBO 130-pound title later this year. If Barrera can win a world title in his next fight, his promoters hope to match him in a mega-fight with either Morales (if the 130-pound title holder gets past Carlos Hernandez next month), WBA/IBF champ Juan Manuel Marquez, or with Pacquiao.

Whoever Barrera takes on next, he'll need to show the fire he showed in rounds eight and 10 tonight from the opening bell.

In the co-featured bout, middleweight contender Jermain Taylor continued his on-the-job training with a dominating ninth-round stoppage of former IBF junior middleweight titlist Raul Marquez.

Taylor, who improved to 21-0 (16), punished Marquez with his jab and many thudding right hands throughout the one-sided contest. Near the end of the ninth round, Taylor landed a sweeping right uppercut that staggered Marquez. A follow-up right hand put the game former champ down just before the bell. Soon after Marquez arrive to his corner, his trainer Ronnie Sheilds signaled to referee Jack Reiss that his fighter had taken enough punishment.

"He started getting hit too much," Sheilds said. "I'm going to talk to him about quitting."

Sheilds can save the lecture. Marquez, who dropped to 35-3, announced his retirement at the post-fight presser.

"I think this was a great learning fight for Jermain, because Raul has probably forgotten more about boxing than most fighters out there know," said Lou DiBella, Taylor's promoter.

It was a performance that could best be described as workmanlike for the young work-in-progress. Taylor exhibited his usual hard jab and powerful right hand, but he also showed some new punches like the uppercut. His footwork was much improved, but he still tends to lean into his jab and telegraph the right.

Taylor wisely held Marquez when the Texan got in close, but he didn't really do much work on the inside. That is someting that will have to change before he takes on the world's top 160-pound fighters (never mind Bernard Hopkins), but it looks like Taylor is learning something new with every fight. Hopefully, his next learning experience will come against an active prospect or contender who is not a former 154-pounder.

Information from The Associated Press and Maxboxing.com was used in this report.

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