When Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions arrived at a settlement last June 29, 2007, the line was finally cleared for a second meeting between Mexican boxing legend, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Philippine pride, Manny Pacquiao.
The first much-anticipated face-off between the two fighters held on November 15, 2003, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, resulted in loud clamor for another bout. Pacquiao emerged as victor after the Mexican juggernaut's bloody defeat in the the 11th round.
Immediately after the classic bout, spectators were already anticipating a rematch. Unfortunately, contractual obligations with their respective promoters hindered both parties from engaging in another boxing duel.
Despite his loss, Barrera went all out and accused the Pinoy prize fighter of deliberately entering into messy contractual deals to stall a possible meeting between them.
"These past four years have been torture for me as Pacquiao has done everything he could to avoid me," fumed Barrera right after the go signal was given earlier this year for their rematch.
In boxing, it is lucrative for promoters to hold a rematch, especially if the two marquee competitors generate much hype. It's no different from a highly successful concert or a TV show, where the public demands a repeat or a sequel. In basketball, we have the Ateneo de Manila University vs De la Salle University in the UAAP, and the San Beda College and Colegio de San Juan de Letran in the NCAA. These championship games usually break attendance records.
Manny Pacquiao is no alien to rematches. Just last year, he reclaimed the WBC International Superfeatherweight title from another Mexican boxer, Erik Morales.
PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) recounts the bout the changed the life of a former cigarette vendor in General Santos City.
THE FIRST ENCOUNTER. During their first duel, Manny was riding on the crest of his budding popularity. Cable networks, plain spectators, boxing fans and reporters were all focused on the lefty Pinoy fighter.
Pacquiao was said to have what it takes to win: youth, skill, speed, power, and charisma. Fortunately, he didn't disappoint as he pounded heavily on the hapless Barrera.
By the 11th round, Barrera had suffered enough and caved in to the barrage of punches he sustained throughout the match. Barrera's older brother, unable to endure the gory spectacle, climbed atop the ring apron and called referee Laurence Cole to stop the fight, with two minutes and 56 seconds still left on the clock.
The trade punches with Barrera, who won his first professional title in 1992, was not merely an additional win for the 28-year-old Pacquiao. Boxing reviewers said it defined his career.
After the fight, Barrera struggled to describe his downfall. "I couldn't see a lot of things. I wasn't really concentrating. I wasn't feeling like myself. I don't know what went wrong but it wasn't me," he lamented during an interview.
THE PACQUIAO-MORALES TRILOGY. Pacquiao's impressive conquest of Barrera automatically made him boxing's newest sensation. He then set his eyes on another celebrated Mexican warrior—Erik Morales.
Beefing up his weight, from 126 lbs. to 130 lbs., Manny's first date with Morales was staged on March 19, 2005, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This time though, luck was not on Pacquiao's side. It was a classic fight, with both parties showing all the tricks in their repertoire. In the end, however, Manny lost the bout by unanimous decision from the judges.
Pacquiao's camp put the blame on the brand of gloves he used for the fight. They were softer compared to the customary ones worn during boxing matches. Right after the decision was announced, Manny's mentor Freddie Roach angrily cut the gloves off Pacquiao's hands and scornfully brandished the item in the promoter's face.
A rematch was held on January 21, 2006, at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. With revenge written all over his face, Pacquiao demolished Morales in the final seconds of round 10 by knocking him down twice.
A third installment of the fight took place on November 18, 2006, also at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Compared to their previous encounters, this one wouldn't go the distance as Manny crushed Morales in the early goings, knocking him down in the third round.
Morales was obviously just a shadow of his old self as he struggled to keep in step with his more confident foe.
"I did everything in camp necessary to win this fight. I didn't win it. It wasn't my night... it just wasn't meant to be," a still visibly shaken Morales quipped after the fight.
Morales also hinted hanging his gloves for good saying, "Maybe this is the way to end it. It was always a pleasure to give the public great fights."
And with his stocks rising considerably, the stage was set for Pacquiao's second shot at Barrera.
HERO WORSHIP. With only a few days left before his well-anticipated rematch with Mexican slugger, Marco Antonio Barrera, Filipino ring idol Manny Pacquiao is once again thrust into the spotlight.
Many boxing critics labeled the rematch as a long overdue event. The two waited for four years period before they could square off again in front of an eager global audience.
The stakes for both men differ.
For Barrera, this is perhaps his last chance to avenge his 2003 11th round loss to the same man dubbed as Mexico's "Republica Enemy No. 1." A win will also cap Barrera's stellar credentials with more color, plus an added boost to his shoo-in Hall-of-Fame boxing career.
"Manny Pacquiao has been an ugly painful thorn in my side for nearly four years," Barrera reportedly said during a break from his training camp in Mexico a few months back.
Barrera would further comment with hatred permeating through his body, "Manny Pacquiao has been the only thing I've thought of, morning, noon and night. I have never been so focused on an opponent in my entire career. I have done nothing else but eat, drink, and dream of Manny Pacquiao."
His opponent, on the other hand, opted to maintain his silence rather than talk thrash.
At 28, Manny Pacquiao is undoubtedly at the peak of his career and a stumble at this point would render his momentum a telling derail. Compared to Barrera, who is in the twilight of his illustrious career, Manny is being considered by boxing enthusiasts as the present and future face of the sport.
Aside from being the crowd favorite, many observers are keeping a tight watch on how Pacquiao's growing celebrity status would affect his ring performance. One international boxing magazine even cited Pacman as an "Elvis Presley-like figure in his home country." The magazine took note of Manny's personal life, being the favorite subject of tabloids, here in Manila.
Boxing paved the way for a career in showbiz. He released his album Para sa 'Yo ang Laban na 'To in 2006. He became, and still is, an endorsement royalty with over 20 TV commercials. And recently, he inked a deal with GMA-7.
Last May 2007 elections, he even attempted to pursue his political ambition, but failed.
The boxing experts call his showbiz and political activities "distractions." Whether or not these sidelines dent Manny's armor badly remains to be seen.
Going back to their Sunday showdown, one thing is common to the two fighters—the desire to give pride and honor to their respective countries.
Toning down a bit in his ranting about his personal vendetta, Barrera was heard saying: "This goes beyond being personal. For me, this fight is about restoring national pride. Vengeance will be mine."
Pacquiao, for his part, has always referred to the Philippines and the Pinoys as his inspiration. The current line, "Ang mamatay nang dahil sa 'yo," used by Nike—a popular international sport apparel brand—in paying homage to Manny's ring exploits was borrowed from the country's national anthem, "Lupang Hinirang." It was intense, it was dramatic, it was a line recited by all national heroes, including the Pambansang Kamao.