By MARK LORENZANA
Mexican boxing legend and International Boxing Hall of Famer Marco Antonio Barrera retired from the sport in 2011, but not before making quick work of his final opponent, Jose Arias, knocking him out in the second round at the Coliseo Olímpico Universidad in Guadalajara, Jalisco, as a farewell fight to his countrymen.
Ricky Hatton, the British boxing hero from Manchester, on the other hand, didn’t go out with a bang like Barrera, and was actually on the losing end in his final fight 10 years ago — he was stopped in the ninth round in his hometown at the Manchester Arena by Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko.
There was no stopping both fighters, though, when they finally traded leather — albeit belatedly — on Saturday, Nov. 12, in Manchester, England.
Both boxers were past their primes, naturally, when they finally met in the ring — Barrera at 48, and Hatton at 44 — but both looked in great shape for their eighth-round exhibition bout. Hatton in particular looked trim and ready, which was a big surprise to boxing fans who follow the Englishman, as he has been known to balloon in weight in between fights even when he was still boxing as a professional — earning him the unofficial moniker “Ricky Fatton.”
As well as being limited to eight rounds, the fight also had two-minute rounds instead of the customary three. The shortened bout wasn’t short on action, however: Hatton’s come-forward, pressure style complemented Barrera’s cerebral, boxer-puncher style, and both fighters were quick on their feet even in their forties.
The exhibition bout didn’t go to the judges’ scorecards, and there was no winner or loser — just two legendary fighters who hugged in mutual admiration after the final bell, for what may be the last time they’d lace up their gloves in public.
“I got everything I wanted out of it and more,” Hatton said after the fight. “I wonder how it was going to go because me and Marco are friends, but we are proud men, and I thought with such a big crowd is it going to get heated. But it was good, it was entertaining and everything we wanted.”
Incidentally, the last time Barrera fought in Manchester, it was a loss against Hatton’s countryman, Amir Khan, in 2009.
Hatton and Barrera, although they hadn’t faced each other in the ring in their primes — owing to a big disparity in weight, as Hatton campaigned at light welterweight and Barrera at lightweight, which was his heaviest weight — had become close friends throughout the years. Their friendship began when Barrera visited Hatton’s dressing room before a fight many years ago, and since then they’d formed a close bond — there was a time when they’d go out to dinner with their wives regularly.
Barrera figured in brutal wars in the ring with fellow Mexican great and nemesis Erik Morales, who hails from Tijuana, Baja California, and was part of the resurgence of the lower weight classes in the early 2000s — from bantamweight to super featherweight — along with Mexico City–born Juan Manuel Márquez and Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao.
Barrera won titles in super flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight and super featherweight; Hatton was a multiple world titlist in light welterweight and welterweight.