By Mike Costello
BBC Radio 5 Live boxing correspondent
An old boxing sage once told me that he measured the capability of a fighter on the face of a clock. At 12 o’clock, the boxer is at his peak. At five to, he’s almost there. At five past, he’s just heading over the hill. Can Marco Antonio Barrera turn back the clock?
At the news conference to announce the fight, Khan’s promoter Frank Warren said it was the biggest step-up in class he’d ever asked one of his prospects to take. It’s a roll of the dice, he later told us on Five Live. The gamble is a calculated one, containing two elements which have become familiar in Warren’s match-making formula when pitting a young prospect against a big name: Barrera is past his best and all his best form belongs in lower weight divisions. Even so, it’s some form. A world champion at three weights, he’s the only man to beat Naseem Hamed and a 2-1 winner over fellow-Mexican Erik Morales in one of the great boxing trilogies of all time. Two fights ago, Barrera was outpointed by Manny Pacquiao. Two fights ago, Khan was bludgeoned to the canvas by Breidis Prescott. Since then, Khan has linked up with Freddie Roach at the Wild Card gym in Hollywood in a move which could prove to be the most important of his career. Roach was in Pacquiao’s corner for both fights against Barrera (both wins) and told Five Live Boxing that Khan is ready for the upgrade.
“Potentially, it’s a contest of beauty and brutality. But whose time is it?”
“I know what styles Barrera struggles with so we’ll bring in the perfect sparring partners. He’s a tough, tough guy but we’ll have an A plan and a B plan.” Roach will be in Khan’s corner for the first time but the onus is on Khan to make his own adjustments also. Barrera’s performance against Pacquiao in their most recent clash indicated that, although he turns 35 this month, he’s retained much of his guile if not his reflexes. If Prescott found the gaps, surely Barrera can too. Or will a second, intensive training camp with Roach be enough to shore up the leaks in Khan’s defence? Weight, reach, youth and speed are all in Khan’s favour. Yet Barrera has the pedigree and the experience to nullify them all.
Potentially, it’s a contest of beauty and brutality. But whose time is it? March 14th… get out the calendar and start ticking off the days.