On Feb. 19, 2000 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Mexican stars Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, both titleholders at 122 pounds, went into battle in the first of what would be three incredibly heated contests, kicking off one of the great rivalries in the history of the sweet science.
The 23-year-old Morales (35-0, 28 KO) was the favorite coming in, but the 26-year-old Barrera (49-2, 36 KO) wasn’t going to give an inch, and didn’t. For 12 rounds, Barrera and Morales went to war in one of the best fights you’re ever going to see. Describing too much of it would potentially ruin some of the drama and excitement for someone who’s never seen it, so I won’t go that far. If you’ve seen the fight, you know.
The bout won Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year for 2000, and their third fight did the same four years later.
As a personal note, this fight and this rivalry were both key to my becoming more than a casual fan of boxing. Something about Morales really took hold for me as a fan, and the intense, personal rivalry between these two — which has been squashed in recent years, long after their final bout in 2004 — was genuine and real, and thus it was easy to get sucked in. These two did not like each other at all.
If you’ve never seen it, it comes with the highest recommendation from me. If you have, hey, watch it agian.