EXCLUSIVE: Marco Antonio Barrera clears up ‘real comeback’ reports

Marco Antonio Barrera

LAS VEGAS – Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera wanted to clarify something to WBN: No, he is not coming out of retirement.

When word came in mid-September that Barrera was going to face his Mexican countryman, good friend, and fellow former world titleholder Daniel Ponce De Leon, it was labeled as an official boxing match. But the 47-year-old Barrera said that is not the case.

“It’s actually an exhibition. There’s been talk (of it being an official fight), and it was on Boxrec as an actual bout, but it’s not,” Barrera told World Boxing News, using son Marco Antonio Barrera Jr. to translate. “It’s not an actual bout. It’s just an exhibition fight.”

Barrera, who was at the MGM Grand Garden Arena attending the weigh-in for the Canelo Alvarez-Caleb Plant undisputed super middleweight championship fight, said that he and Ponce De Leon will not wear headgear, but they will wear 16-ounce gloves – far larger than what would be worn in an official fight – and box six two-minute rounds instead of the standard three-minute rounds.

Barrera said the weight for the exhibition will be 158 pounds, which is far heavier than either man boxed at during their decorated careers.

The exhibition match will headline a card that is set to take place on Saturday (FITE, 7:30 p.m. ET, $9.99) at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino in Mescalero, New Mexico. The promoter of the card is Teresa Tapia, the widow of three-division world champion and International Boxing Hall of Famer Johnny Tapia, who was a friend of Barrera’s and an opponent Barrera defeated by unanimous decision in a Las Vegas featherweight showdown in 2002.

Barrera said he is going to participate in the exhibition for charitable reasons, not because he has any interest in attempting a serious comeback to the ring.

“The main reason is it’s for a good cause. The proceeds are going to the amateur boxing world, and what better thing to do for the Johnny Tapia Foundation,” Barrera said.

REAL COMEBACK

As for a real comeback?

“No, no, no,” Barrera said. “If I get into the ring, it’s going to be for a good cause like this fight. It’s for charity. It’s to help out friends, the Tapia family. No real fights. That’s over. I already fought who I had to fight, and now I’m just doing an exhibition fight.”

Barrera has been retired for ten years and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017.

During his legendary 1989 to 2011 career, Barrera (67-7, 44 KOs) won world titles in three divisions — junior featherweight, featherweight, and junior lightweight — and engaged in some of the most memorable fights of that era, including going 2-1 in an epic trilogy with rival Erik Morales and beating Naseem Hamed, Kennedy McKinney, Paulie Ayala, Kevin Kelley, Rocky Juarez (twice) and Tapia. He also lost twice to a prime Manny Pacquiao as well as Juan Manuel Marquez and Amir Khan (when Barrera was near the end of his career).

The 41-year-old Ponce De Leon (45-7, 35 KOs), a southpaw, is a former junior featherweight and featherweight world titlist who has been retired since 2014.

“Ponce was a champion and a very good fighter,” Barrera said. “We have similar styles, and we are both really well known. We’re very good friends. We’ve known each other for years.”

Marco Antonio Barrera Daniel Ponce de Leon

EXHIBITION

This will be Barrera’s second exhibition. In June, he and retired Mexican welterweight Jesus Soto Karass put on a six-round exhibition, also without headgear but using larger gloves and two-minute rounds, at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena outside of Los Angeles in Pico Rivera, California.

Morales was on hand and joined Barrera in the ring afterward to hype up a possible exhibition with Barrera.

For years, Barrera and Morales were bitter rivals, but they have become friendly in recent years and discussed facing each other in an exhibition, although it has not come to fruition.

“That fight has already been in talks since last year,” Barrera said. “However, there was some trouble for logistics reasons, and we couldn’t make it happen. We’ve talked about it. We both liked the idea, but then there was Covid, and we just dropped the idea.”

Even if Barrera partakes in future exhibition bouts beyond the one with Ponce De Leon on Saturday, he reiterated that his days as a serious boxer are over.

“I’m never going to do another real boxing match,” Barrera said. “I’ll never do another real, official fight.”

Award-winning writer Dan Rafael is the Lead Boxing Contributor for World Boxing News. Follow Dan on social media @DanRafael1.