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How the Mighty Can Fall: Barrera's rift with Golden Boy

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

As one of boxing's few active legends, a true first-ballot Hall of Famer, Marco Antonio Barrera can generally get the fights he wants. And he's never backed down from a challenge, be it his bitter rival Erik Morales, Manny Pacquiao, Naseem Hamed, Johnny Tapia, Paulie Ayala, or, most recently, Juan Manuel Marquez. And that's just a few names on Barrera's rap sheet.

Don't expect to see Barrera/Marquez II if "The Baby Faced Assassin" can't come to terms with Golden Boy Promotions.
The 33-year old Barrera is a three-division champion, and still considered one of the top 130-pound fighters in the world, even though his style has changed significantly over the years, mostly to elongate a career that could have been over by now had he stuck to the punch first, think second philosophy of his younger days. Barrera was a warrior, and one of Mexico's and boxing's greatest stars. He has been in so many truly great fights over the years that it seems like he's older than he is -- in truth, he's younger than Marquez, who is just now considered a real champion by most, and is just now making himself a household name in boxing.

But there's trouble. Barrera took a well-deserved break from the sport after his March loss to Marquez, a fight he felt he won, an opinion shared by many. But the one thing almost nobody disagrees on is that the fight was fantastic. Personally, it's still my Fight of the Year. After contemplating retirement, Barrera has seemingly made up his mind that he wants to return to the ring, yet he's in a bit of a struggle with Golden Boy Promotions over his career.

Simply put, Barrera wants out. Many wanted a rematch with Marquez, but that's off the table, because Barrera turned it down. Instead, Marquez will fight Jorge Rodrigo Barrios on September 15, a date that was initially and tentatively lined up for Marquez/Barrera II, which would have put some good bank in the pockets of both men and been a PPV hit for Golden Boy and HBO.

Barrera wanted Manny Pacquiao, who is currently and bitterly entwined in the ongoing Golden Boy/Top Rank feud. Pacquiao is still officially with Top Rank, which would have made anything hard to get done to begin with. But add in the fact that Barrera is now at odds with Golden Boy, as well, and you've got an impossible situation. Instead, Pacquiao will face Humberto Soto -- Top Rank's Humberto Soto, more accurately -- on October 6. No doubt, Pacquiao/Barrera II would have been the bigger money fight. But that's a no-go situation, as well.

That leaves Marco Antonio Barrera as the odd man out at 130. And for turning down a rematch with Marquez, he really has only himself to blame.

As a matter of fact, Barrera is currently so unhappy with Golden Boy that he just wants cupcake fights to fulfill his contractual obligations, after which he could (and likely would) jump to Bob Arum's Top Rank.

The Golden Boy/Top Rank feud is a story for another time, but it's one that is seriously hurting boxing. We still get great fights, but the two most important promotion companies in the world don't want to work with one another, and that's bad for business overall. It kills the possibility of too many fights. Do you think we'd ever see Cotto/Mosley? Arum, who previously promoted Juan Manuel Marquez, was quoted as saying, "Who the hell is Juan Manuel Marquez?" when asked of the possibility of Pacquiao/Marquez II -- one of the boxing audience's most wanted fights.

This is simply about Barrera and Golden Boy, and the fact is, it's a shame that it has come to this. Barrera is a fighter who has made a career out of great skill combined with an immeasurable amount of determination and fortitude. He has never backed down from a fight. For Marco Antonio Barrera to want to take the easy way out of anything, something must be seriously amiss.

Golden Boy has become the company they are on the backs of four fighters in particular: boss Oscar de la Hoya, "Sugar" Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, and Marco Antonio Barrera. While the other three had some big, mainstream fights, Barrera has been the workhorse of the bunch. He fought anybody. He fought often. The smallest fighter of the group, Barrera is one of the main players in the rise of non-heavyweight boxing's popularity this decade. Oscar deserves most of the credit for that, of course, but there are a lot of guys who have done their share. If de la Hoya was the admiral, guys like Barrera served at least as captains.

To see that nucleus possibly broken up is not only disappointing, it's strange and unexpected. I think most everybody figured Barrera would end his career sometime over the next few years as one of Golden Boy's most celebrated fighters, and I always figured we'd see Marco stay on with the company in some capacity, mugging for the camera at press conferences with Oscar and the gang. Right now, that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

What Barrera is likely sadly to discover is that it won't be anywhere near easy to get Golden Boy to say, "OK, here's a couple of win-'em fights, go on your way." They're going to fight him every step of the way on this one. And it's bound to get ugly, especially when Bob Arum inevitably sticks his nose in.

Really, though, there is some good news out of this. Pacquiao/Barrera II is a fight that nobody wants to see more than Barrera himself. Four years ago, Pacquiao completely overwhelmed Barrera, and at the time, Marco was a better fighter than he is now, and Pacquiao wasn't as good as he is today. Any rematch would be a one-sided massacre that I don't think would go more than a few rounds. Take a look back at Pacquiao/Morales III, huh? I have no desire to see Barrera shredded by Pacquiao, and Pacquiao/Soto is a far more appealing fight in my mind.

We'll have to see how it all shakes out, but for the time being, just scratch Marco Antonio Barrera off of your "fights I'd like to see" lists. None of them are happening. He's costing himself money, but he just might not care.

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