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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 17:05 GMT
The tactical tussle
Johnny Tapia, American featherweight
Tapia was well received in England this year

Highlights of Saturday's fight will be shown on Sunday Grandstand at 1330 on BBC Two.

Those expecting an all-out war when Marco Antonio Barrera and Johnny Tapia meet at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas on Saturday could be disappointed.

They may be fighters of passion and brawn, but the truth is that they are more comfortable operating as pure boxers than brawlers.

  Marco Antonio Barrera
Record: 55 wins, three losses, 39 KOs
Best wins: W12 Naseem Hamed; W12 Erik Morales

Which is why this bout might just be one of those that, in years to come, boxing trainers show to their pupils as a way of tuition.

For years, Barrera was judged as a fighter with an all-action, aggressive style who sometimes got hit too much.

But his dominant performance against Naseem Hamed showed that the Mexican could fight effectively on the backfoot while still landing the kind of devastating punches that discourage opponents.

The metamorphosis was complete when he used his boxing style to sneak a points win over Erik Morales this summer.

That fight was a rematch of their first battle in 2000, when Barrera had chased his Mexican rival all over the ring, with seemingly good success, until he lost one of the most unpopular decisions in boxing history.

Barrera promises to be more aggressive for the fight with Tapia, but that was the same boast he made before fighting Hamed.

Marco Antonio Barrera
Barrera showed his class by crushing Hamed
The dominant featherweight in the world and a trainee lawyer to boot, no one is arguing with the 28-year-old.

As for Tapia, his tortured life has made it very difficult for anyone to seriously predict how he will approach a fight of this magnitude.

The veteran is simply glad to be fighting after a series of incidents which have plagued his life and career.

But there have been signs of decline in recent times, with his controversial victory over Mexican Manuel Median the clearest hint that Tapia is not the fighter he once was.

During the bout, which took place at the end of April this year, Tapia spent the majority of the fight on the ropes, seemingly unable to fend Medina off.

In his prime, Tapia would have been able to keep someone like Medina at long distance with accurate jabs.

  Johnny Tapia
Record: 50 wins, two losses, two draws 27 KOs
Best wins: W12 Danny Romero; W12 Jorge Eliecer Julio

But after 11 years as a professional, the 35-year-old is perhaps feeling the effects of a long career.

As neither man carries the natural power of a featherweight - Barrera started as a super bantamweight and Tapia came up from super flyweight - an early knockout seems unlikely.

You are more likely to see a tactical battle, with Barrera the aggressor but looking to counter off Tapia's offensive forays.

At the same time, Tapia has far too much pride to allow himself to be outclassed by a man seven years younger and is sure to provide Barrera with the odd moment of uncertainty.

BBC Sport Online believes that Barrera should be able to overcome those difficulties and record a unanimous decision win to cement his position as the best featherweight in the world.


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See also:

20 Jan 02 | Boxing
21 Sep 02 | Boxing
23 Jun 02 | Boxing
Links to more Boxing stories are at the foot of the page.


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