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21 NOVEMBER 2018


Naz versus Barrera: Ten Years Ago This Week

By Daley James Francis: Ten years ago this weekend (7th April), Sheffield’s Prince Naseem Hamed lost his unbeaten record and claim as the best pound for pound fighter in the world when outpointed over 12 rounds by Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

It was the moment of truth for Naz, who had shown signs of slipping in recent victories over Paul Ingle, Augie Sanchez and his featherweight Hagler-Hearns that was his fight with Kevin Kelley on his American debut. Many believed that the power that Naz possessed in both hands would be too much for Barrera, who had not long moved up from super-bantamweight and had been stopped by Junior Jones at that weight, albeit four years earlier (and officially classed a DQ after Barrera’s corner men entered the ring as Jones piled on the hurt).

Naz was in denial about his ability to walk through Barrera, as was evident in the TV documentary ‘Little Prince, Big Fight’ that aired in August the following year. Directed by Jez Higham, the documentary showed a Naz blinded by celebrity and ego, overconfident and underprepared for the fight that lay ahead. Training in the gym within a hotel penthouse and spending more time having his hair cut than working with Manny Steward, the shocking nature of the documentary is testament to how naturally talented Naz was. A less gifted fighter training that way would have been humiliated by Barrera.

Meanwhile, Barrera trained like the challenger he was, hidden away and pouring everything he had into his preparations for the most important fight of his career. Some people thought that even the best Barrera there was would not be enough to beat Naz, but what they didn’t know was that Barrera and his team were working on becoming a new Barrera, with a new counter punching style that would pick off the awkward and unorthodox fighter as he came in.

When the first bell rang, Naz was shocked to discover a circling, cautious Barrera buying his time. Where was the charging Mexican warrior who brutalised opponents from the opening bell? Towards the end of the first round, Naz, his arms by his side, was caught flush on the chin whilst trying to twist his way out of harms way. The punch spun Naz’s head on his shoulders, and while not a deadly punch in terms of power, it must have looked like it to the judges. Legendary Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward – working Naz’s corner for the final time – was quick to point this out to Naz between rounds.

Naz used his jab beautifully in round three, and there were times when he outboxed Barrera with it. Naz’s jab was always a potent weapon, but in later years had neglected to use it as his belief in his power grew into arrogance and a dependency. Barrera capitalised on the moments where Naz came swinging with single shots, his reflexes not what they once were. As he pounced, he was wide open for Barrera’s fast hooks, and the points were piling up.

In the final round, a wild swing from Naz resulted in the fighters becoming tangled and stumbling across the ring. In a moment of frustration, perhaps in retaliation to the taunts from Naz in the lead up to fight, Barrera slammed Naz’s head into the turnbuckle, costing him a point. Barrera whispered “Who’s the Daddy?” in Naz’s ear as they were separated. The Mexican’s dominance was complete.

The scores were announced: 116-111 and 115-112 (twice), all in favour for the winner, ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’ from Mexico, Marco Antonio Barrera. Hamed smiled and applauded his conqueror, but his face was pale with the sickness of defeat. A defeat his ego had to learn to accept.

Naz had one more fight and then disappeared from the ring. There have been many great nights for Barrera since, and he still fights to this day, albeit as a shell of his former greatness.

The fight is widely viewed as ‘the fight that exposed Naz’ and over time has been incorrectly reported as a one-sided drubbing. HBO’s unofficial judge scored the bout 115-112 for Barrera (with a point deduction). That is victory of 8 rounds to 4 for Barrera.

Not a shutout, not a one-sided beat down, more of an outclassing of an opponent. The difference between a very good fighter and a great fighter.

Aril 7, 2011

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