Boxing: Barrera shows his world-class credentials

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The Independent Online
WITHIN THE opening three minutes of Paul Lloyd's challenge to the World Boxing Organisation super-bantamweight champion, Marco Antonio Barrera, at the Royal Albert Hall, the sombre-looking Mexican had drawn blood from Lloyd's nose and both eyebrows. Barrera knocked Lloyd down for good measure. Unsurprisingly, the Englishman did not come out for round two.

Barrera's win seems all the more impressive for Lloyd's status as British, Commonwealth and European bantamweight champion. But Lloyd was never expected to win. He was fighting out of his natural weight division.

Still Barrera, the 25-year-old former law student from Mexico City, confirmed at the weekend that he is one of the very best fighters in the world, and that his rehabilitation is complete after a traumatic five-month period two years ago. Barrera was unbeaten in 43 fights when he fought against the talented Junior Jones in Tampa. Barrera was the natural opponent for Naseem Hamed, the WBO featherweight champ who watched from ringside. They acknowledged each other respectfully before the fight, but by round three Hamed was asking: "Is he having a bad night or what?" Jones, whom Hamed had visited in his dressing-room, was debunking the myth of "The Next Great Mexican". And in round five the New Yorker proved his point.

The beaten fighter, then only 23, was bereft at the post-fight conference - no one in America wants to talk to a loser, let alone one who needs an interpreter. Hamed, his former meal ticket, could offer only veiled encouragement. "You're a great fighter, you'll come back," said the Prince. "But work on blocking those right hands." Barrera did come back, against Jones, and lost again, this time on points. But boxing is strange. By a convoluted route, Barrera is WBO super-bantamweight champion again, unbeaten in his last five.

While the future is certain for Paul Lloyd, the same cannot be said for Marco Antonio Barrera.