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Pacquiao, Barrera load up for a brawl

The Pavlik-Taylor fallout hasn't quite reached its conclusion yet, but that's the way the schedule is this fall. Just two days after a scintillating middleweight title change, we have to move forward. Because in five days, there's another huge fight looming.

I'm sure both Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera remember November 15, 2003, at the Alamodome in San Antonio quite well, but for very different reasons. Pacquiao, who was then just shy of his 25th birthday, became a superstar that night. Barrera, who may be entering his final prize fight on Saturday, suffered the worst loss his storied career.

Four years later, and four pounds higher, they're still among the sport's elite. Since their first battle, Pacquiao has gone 6-1-1, with two wins over (and a loss to) Erik Morales, Barrera's great rival, a brutal draw with Juan Manuel Marquez, and wins over Hector Velazquez, Oscar Larios, Fahsan 3K Battery, and Jorge Solis. Barrera recovered from the devastating defeat by beating Paulie Ayala, Morales in their rubber match, Mzonke Fana, Robbie Peden, and Rocky Juarez (twice). He lost a tremendous fight in March to Juan Manuel Marquez.

They are at different stages of their careers, obviously. Pacquiao, 28, is his country's greatest celebrity, and one of boxing's most vital and exciting stars. Barrera, 33, is nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career.

Sometimes, people do forget how big of an upset Pacquiao obliterating Barrera really was. Pacquiao was a slugging, electric fighter who was going to get his first real test. Most of us expected that Barrera would weather his storm, and simply outsmart him. I think we liked Pacquiao, but Marco Antonio Barrera was Marco Antonio Barrera.

I know that I, personally, never saw Pacquiao's one-sided massacre coming. I thought he had an OK chance to win, but Barrera would eventually get his number and put the untamed lion down. Never happened. Pacquiao was too strong, too fast, too relentless, and too fearless for Barrera. Marco took a beating that night.

Most who know Barrera feel that he has taken this fight for the revenge factor of it all, that he can't retire peacefully without beating Manny Pacquiao.

But does he legitimately have any chance of doing that?

Logic dictates that he does not. He's older, he's not as strong as he once was, and he didn't do well last time out. Plus, he's going with new head trainers, a combination of two long-time assistants, including his brother. Meanwhile, Pacquiao (distractions and all, which likely will amount to nothing, if you want my honest feeling on the matter) is still with Freddie Roach, the man who has molded the top-ranked super featherweight in the world out of what was once a seriously undisciplined brawler. Roach got Pacquiao perfectly ready for Barrera last time. There's no reason he won't do it again.

In my heart, I am rooting for Marco Antonio Barrera. As much as I love watching Pacquiao and think he's a super guy, Barrera was one of the fighters that helped nurture my love of the sweet science, and for boxing's lighter weight classes.

I'm trying to find a way to believe that Barrera has a chance, because I want to think he does. It's proving quite difficult, and has since the fight was signed.

But let's make this clear: If Barrera were to beat Pacquiao, it would be one of boxing's truly great stories. And it would be one of the signature wins of Barrera's remarkable career.

We'll have plenty more leading up to Pacquiao-Barrera II this week, as well as a look at the undercard fights of what should be a pretty solid pay-per-view. And another hat's off to Top Rank and Golden Boy for settling their feud enough to let this fight happen. It was long overdue that the two companies stopped squabbling and made the big fights for the big money. If you book the fights, we will pay.

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