Having clung tight to my £14.95 last weekend, Amir Khan is not presently a pay-per-view attraction regardless of the affection with which I hold his opponent – in this case Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera, I’m delighted to provide a forum for guest writer Ben Carey’s view of the contentious clash between the aspiring Khan and the jaded Barrera.
Barrera’s bloody mess obscures the true worth of Khan’s victory
By Ben Carey
Amir Khan may have banished the demons from his 54-second loss to Breidis Prescott but we’re no nearer to knowing whether the 22-year-old is genuinely world class despite the ease of his fifth-round technical victory over a bloodied Marco Antonio Barrera at Manchester’s M.E.N Arena on Saturday night.
Khan’s trademark speed, piston-like jab, tighter defence and improved discipline, refined under the expert guidance of trainer Freddie Roach, were all contributing factors behind the Bolton man’s impressive dominance of the faded legend. But it was a deep cut sustained to his temple in the opening round which was undeniably Barrera’s greatest hindrance.
Even Barrera’s most ardent supporters, and there were many in the 20,000 strong crowd who distastefully jeered the British fighter, would have anticipated the 72-fight, 35-year-old looking cumbersome in the early stages against Khan’s speed of hand and foot. However, suggestions that Khan would have gone on to register an emphatic victory even if had Barrera not come off worse following their accidental clash of heads appear exaggerated.
With his vision impaired by blood streaming into his left eye, the Mexican’s game plan was significantly disrupted. Intent on boxing defensively in order to give his corner time to staunch the cut in-between rounds, Barrera was forced to re-think his strategy in round four when referee Dave Parris asked the ringside doctor to inspect the damage. Surprisingly they allowed the veteran to continue with what had long since become a lost cause. In the absence of a specialist cutsman, Barrera’s corner was ill-equipped to tackle a cut of such intensity, leaving the Mexican to attempt to locate Khan’s questionable chin with a knockout punch through an obstructive red mask whilst being peppered with rapier-like combinations.
Blinking heavily and constantly wiping away the blood that smeared his now battle-hardened face, the officials finally called a halt to the fight towards the end of the fifth round. The timing, with only 17 seconds remaining on the clock, seemed odd but it was entirely the right decision with Barrera’s eyesight placed at risk. After the formality of the judges’ scorecards confirmed Khan’s vital (if unsatisfactory) victory (50-45 twice and 50-44), talk turned towards Frank Warren’s ability to deliver a world title shot for the rejuvenated Khan later this year.
Written off permanently by some following his damaging loss to Breidis Prescott in the same ring just six months ago, it seemed unimaginable that the Olympic silver medallist would propel himself into contention to challenge for a world title in a competitive but wide open lightweight division less than a year later. Given Warren’s influence, we should soon find out whether Khan has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Trainer Freddie Roach has tightened Khan’s leaky defence and installed some much-needed discipline into his work to complement his unquestionable talent, yielding impressive results against Barrera and Oisin Fagan.
The Bolton quicksilver’s decision to quickly get back up, dust himself down and return to basics in the uncompromising environment of one of America’s toughest gyms is testimony to his self-belief and determination to succeed. His willingness to share a ring with Manny Pacquiao (even though it was just sparring) and Barrera so soon after experiencing a shattering loss also warrants praise as another defeat would have all but consigned his career to the scrapheap.
Yet until Khan absorbs a punch of any significance and meets a young, fresh opponent, we won’t know whether he has been flattered by this victory over a former great fighter in the twilight of his 20-year career. The severity of Barrera’s cut prevented him from sustaining any kind of offence to test Khan’s punch resistance to head or body that had been called into question by Prescott, Michael Gomez and Willie Limond before him. On the occasions Khan has been matched against fellow contenders on the way up he was almost beaten (by Limond) and destroyed (by Prescott). It should also be noted that Prescott has looked anything but world class in his unconvincing wins over Richard Abril and Humberto Toledo either side of his one-round destruction of Khan whilst Limond, despite rumours of break through fights, has faded into virtual obscurity.
My intention isn’t to dismiss Khan’s future world title ambitions, merely to offer a sense of perspective when assessing the true merits of his victory over Barrera under the circumstances it was accomplished in. Tougher challenges lie ahead but whatever their outcome Khan won’t shirk them and for that at least he deserves to be supported, not lambasted by those who have turned their back on him.
Contact Ben Carey via firstname.lastname@example.org