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Business as usual for Barrera, no better time for Marquez

Never let it be said that Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar de la Hoya can't promote a fight, even when he's busy with one of his own.

"For as long as I can remember, when you talked about the best fighters in the world, the names of Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez were always mentioned, but a fight between them never came off. I'm excited that we've finally been able to put these two great warriors together and present the fans with what I believe will be one of the best fights of the last 25 years."

And as corny as it sounds, Oscar may be exactly right. It feels as though the stars are aligning right now over boxing, over the Marquez brothers, and perhaps once again over Barrera. While the world awaits Mayweather and de la Hoya, that fight is not the sole focus of the boxing community -- Juan Manuel's brother, Rafael, defeated Israel Vazquez in exciting fashion on March 3, and now the "other" Marquez gets one more shot at becoming what many believe him to be, but what he has sometimes failed to prove in black-and-white terms: That he's one of the world's best.

While Rafael Marquez had already clearly staked his claim as the king of the 118-pound division before stepping up to 122 and claiming the throne there, as well, Juan Manuel Marquez has spent an often-brilliant career skirting just on the outside of true greatness. While Marquez has racked up a 46-3-1 record, with perhaps his greatest performance ever coming in the draw against Manny Pacquiao, it has never been an easy road. Through bad business decisions by Nacho Beristain and losses that came at the worst possible times to Freddie Norwood and Chris John, Marquez has yet to become the type of revered fighter that Barrera has, despite that few would argue that there is any great difference in their skill levels.

Barrera has been a superstar for years, turning pro at age 15 in 1989, and making his name stick for good in the super bantamweight division in the mid-1990s. The trilogy of wars against Erik Morales will forever be the first thing anyone thinks of when they think of Barrera (or Morales, for that matter), but he's beaten so many good fighters. His only kryptonite? The lethal power of Pacquiao, which put Marquez down three times in one round before Marquez put on an 11-round clinic afterward, and Junior Jones, which was simply a bad night in the rematch for Barrera. He debunked and effectively ended the career of Naseem Hamed, and has gone to battle and won against Johnny Tapia, Paulie Ayala, and several other notable names.

Marquez does not have that. After an iffy on the road performance in Indonesia against Chris John, Marquez has won his last two fights, against Terdsak Jandaeng and a very game but overmatched Jimrex Jaca, a fight in which Marquez showed some real fire and an aggression that may benefit him against Barrera.

But now he steps up to super featherweight, the division Pacquiao reigns over, and the one at which Barrera is now at home. Barrera has fought at 130 since 2004, which should lend him some advantage -- how big or small, we'll see. Barrera is a really good technician in the ring, but when Marquez is at his best, he is a surgeon with his fists, and in my opinion the definite superior in this matchup. Barrera's last three fights -- two against Rocky Juarez and one against Robbie Peden -- have shown a different side, one where Barrera boxes first and seems to hold back what is likely his primal urge, to go to war with his opponent as he has done so many times. We've seen Marco Antonio brawl, and we know that he can be one of the most brutal fighters in the sport, and that he can take a ton of punishment. But does he really want to?

If Marquez comes out firing like he did against Jaca, we're going to see whether or not Barrera is still mentally prepared for that sort of fight, or if he can call an audible if that isn't his gameplan heading in.

And while the safe money would be to bet on Marquez and Barrera putting on a fantastic display of veteran boxing, I'm not one to go for the smart money in this one. These are two very proud fighters, and as soon as one of them lets loose with anything, the other will come with it. And we could see all hell break loose.

But that plays into my other expectation for this fight, too. Some -- including myself -- have questioned how much Barrera truly has left in the tank. He has been cautious, and while years ago Barrera would have disposed of someone like Rocky Juarez with ease, Juarez arguably beat Barrera once last year, before the rematch where Barrera adjusted and dominated his opponent. Now, Juarez was a late opponent for Barrera the first time, and he boxed like he should have -- as in, like he had nothing to lose and a world to gain -- but Barrera was not Barrera in that fight. And I have even seen the question come up of whether or not Barrera may be on his last legs.

To answer a question with a question, I propose this one: How many times have people wondered where Barrera could go from here? The losses to Junior Jones, the loss to Morales, the loss to Pacquiao. He was considered different forms of declining or overrated after each of those losses, yet he came back with a vengeance each time. Now, he hasn't even had to lose, just turn in what -- for a fighter of Barrera's stature -- are considered run-of-the-mill or mediocre outings.

Barrera isn't done, I feel very confident in that. But can he come back to top form again? Because to beat Juan Manuel Marquez, he's going to have to.

On the flip side, can Marquez finally turn in the career-defining performance that also puts one in his win column? He has beaten many good fighters, yet lacks that great win that will vault him into what many feel is his rightful place among boxing's elite.

On Saturday night, we find out just where both Barrera and Marquez stand.

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