Boxing: Blood, guts and glory for mighty Khan

Lightweight produces dazzling performance to dispatch legendary Barrera in five rounds after early clash of heads

A legend was licked in Manchester last night, Amir Khan bringing down the curtain on the career of the once great Marco Antonio Barrera with a display that was as dazzling as the sequins on his shorts.

In fact, it was a red curtain which caused the closure, blood cascading into Barerra's left eye from a cut above it caused by an accidental clash of heads in the first round which semi-blinded him until two minutes 32 seconds of the fifth had elapsed, when a ringside doctor called a halt to the one-way carnage.

Under WBO rules – this was an official eliminator for their lightweight title – it had to go to the judges' scorecards, even though it was impossible for Barrera to continue.

All three had the 22-year-old Khan winning every round and there was no doubting the emphatic manner of a victory which bought redemption in the same ring where he had been flattened in 54 seconds by the Colombian Breidis Prescott last September.

Glorious as it was for Khan, it was a sad conclusion to the 20-year career of the 35-year-old Barrera, who found that Khan's fists were never out of his face. The cut was in a similar position to the one he incurred in his last fight six weeks ago, the blood smothering his face. He was twice inspected by the doctor who held long conversations with the boxer in his corner, allowing the fight to continue in the fourth but insisting that it had to finish when he took another look in the fifth.

Barrera shrugged, knowing he had gone out to a younger, faster, fitter man, still carrying his shield. For the Mexican it was a question of blood, sweat and years. By the fifth round it had become a duel of matador and bull. The tell-tale signs had been evident at Friday's weigh-in when a puffy Barrera had to strip naked in order to to make the nine-stone nine-pound limit.

If this had been the Barrera who left Naseem Hamed with a sickly grin of humiliation on his face in Las Vegas, you would have thought promoter Frank Warren had escaped from the men in white coats when he made this match.

However, eight years have taken their toll and although Barrera is still brimming with Mexican machismo, his boxing now is mainly instinctive rather than menacing.

Although initially he went hunting with the left hook, to which Khan is susceptible, knowing you cannot put muscles on chins, Khan demonstrated that he had acquired footwork and finesse in absorbing the lessons in Freddie Roach's gym in Los Angeles. Even the ever voluble Don King, who had hailed Barrera as the Pancho Villa of boxing, had to admit that his man had met his match in this young master.

Khan answered the critics in the most positive manner but as he admitted afterwards, "Beating a man like Barrera almost makes you feel humble but it doesn't mean I am ready yet for a world title fight. I know there is still work to be done". He added: "It was make or break for me. If I lost this fight it was 'pack your bags'. I shut the critics up, I made it easy work."

Barrera, however, was not prepared to go quietly, claiming: "It was a head butt. I think that they should have stopped the fight before. He's got fast hands but his punches did nothing to me."

Khan's brilliance at least brightened an otherwise dismal night for British boxers as Nicky Cook and Enzo Maccarinelli both suffering defeats in their respective world title fights.

But big-punching hometown boy Matthew Hall caused one of the year's major upsets when he took the Commonwealth light-middleweight title from holder Bradley Pryce with a sensational second-round stoppage.

Making the seventh defence of his title, Pryce, the 27-year-old stable-mate of former world champion Joe Calzaghe, was floored three times, the last by a savage right cross which sent him spinning down, his fall saved by the bottom rope. The referee immediately stopped the fight, calling a doctor into the ring where the clearly concussed Pryce had to be treated for several minutes.

Cook's reign as the WBO super-featherweight champion was short-lived. The Londoner lost the belt he won against Alex Arthur here last September when he was stopped in four rounds by Roman "Rocky" Martinez.

Cook had made an impressive start against the Puerto Rican but the unbeaten little hard man produced powerful punches in the third round and the referee had to call a halt to proceedings.

It was a bleak and bitter night, too, for Maccarinelli as his attempt to win the interim version of the WBO cruiserweight title he lost to David Haye a years ago ended in a devastating defeat. He was stopped in the ninth round by the relatively inexperienced Ola Afolabe.

The Kent-born Nigerian, who calls himself Kryptonite, came up with an overhand right similar to the one delivered by Haye to send the Welshman crashing to the floor and the fight was stopped.

It is hard to see where Maccarinelli goes from here and the tears in the corner from trainer Enzo Calzaghe suggested that this could well be the end of his career.

Meanwhile Tobias Webb, who is also from the Calzaghe stable and a 19-year-old nephew of Maccarinelli, made a successful pro debut at super-middleweight, out-pointing Reading's Patrick Mendys over four rounds.

And Liverpool's Paul Smith won the vacant WBA International super-middleweight championship, flooring his opponent Rashid Matmula of Tanzania three times before the fight was stopped in the second round.

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