MANNY PACQUIAO first became known outside of the hardcore boxing fans with a devastating performance to stop Marco Antonio Barrera in the 11th round of their encounter on the 15th November 2003.
The Filipino was already a two weight world champion, but this time he was stepping up in weight to face Barrera for the lineal featherweight title, and the odds were stacked against the future Hall of Famer.
Barrera entered the fight on a good run of form, which included handing Naseem Hamed his only loss and gaining revenge over his hated rival Erik Morales, and the Mexican, who was also at the time a two weight world champion, was expected to have too much for Pacquiao.
The hype surrounding Pacquiao was continuing to grow and he had recently made the transition to fighting American shows, officially leaving his Asian base to pursue the big fights, and the Barrera fight, was as big as a test as Pacquiao could have hoped for.
They headlined the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, the site of many great battles including Julio Cesar Chavez against Pernell Whitaker, with HBO broadcasting and the crowd was pro-Barrera from the start. The Filipino was also making his first attempt at the weight and his first round in the big leagues couldn’t have gone much worse.
Pacquiao, who had been working with Freddie Roach since 2001, recovered well and dominated the fight, being too good and far too fast for the Mexican warrior.
Barrera, the betting favourite at 4-1, was blitzed and was down in the third, before surviving the next few rounds. Pacquiao was a whirlwind of punches, overwhelming Barrera, who was once again down in the 11th, which was to be the final round. He also had a point deducted in the 9th when he hit Pacquiao on the break.
Barrera was shell-shocked and had nowhere to turn, and despite his pride, he must have been grateful for his cornerman Rudy Perez stepping on the ring apron, which forced referee Laurence Cole to stop the fight. At the time of the stoppage, Manny was ahead on all three scorecards, 97-89 and 97-90 twice.
Both men’s storied careers continued following the fight, with Barrera looking to be on the slide, until he picked up a rejuvenating victory over Morales, their third clash, to become a three weight world champion.
He retired in 2011 and there is no doubt his place in the Hall of Fame is secure, when his ballot comes up. As for Pacquiao his career is nearing it’s glorious conclusion, after the huge disappointment of the Mayweather fight, he came back in April 2016 to decisively defeat old adversary Tim Bradley and then went on to dethrone Jessie Vargas for the WBO 147lb crown in November.
This was one of the greatest Pacquiao performance’s we have seen and HBO commentator, Larry Merchant, probably summed it up the best, when he said: “This is a fight that will shake up the boxing world”.
He was spot-on as Manny Pacquiao had arrived in the big leagues and would shake up the boxing world many more times over the coming years.