Beware of Barrera!
Adam Smith says Amir Khan's speed can see him through, but warns not to write off Marco Antonio Barrera...
Last Updated: 12/03/09 12:30pm
So the mouthwatering match is finally upon us.
The North West has been buzzing over the last few days. An electrifying display by Jamie Moore last Friday, saw the popular Salford fighter finally earn the credit I feel he's long deserved.
Moore's clinical dismantling of the highly respected Italian Michele Piccirillo was virtually a punch-perfect performance and at 30, may be the building block he needed to launch himself on to a world title challenge.
Now, the time is nigh for Moore's talented former stablemate to show that he is good enough, clever enough and tough enough - both mentally and physically to graduate in world class.
For, at just 22, this is Amir Khan's acid test and the chance to see how he's really re-built from the devastating loss six months ago to unknown Columbian Breidis Prescott.
The facile victory over Irishman Oisin Fagin was a nice way for Khan to exorcise a few of those psychological demons but the leap in class he faces now is enormous.
Marco Antonio Barrera is the menacing, battle-hardened Mexican who has thrilled us for two decades. With countless world titles in three weight divisions, Barrera has nothing left to prove. But many feel he has nothing much left in the tank.
Well on the evidence of what we have witnessed in the build-up both in Mexico City, and since his arrival last weekend in Britain, Barrera looks well - and in the zone.
His skin may be old, his recent cut a slight hindrance, he is a small lightweight, and his legs can't be what they once were, but there is a feeling this is a journey for pride.
Marco is deeply hurt that many critics are writing him off, and there are signs that he is trying desperately for another great stand.
I have spent plenty of time with the Barrera's in the last month. Deep inside the old warrior lies ambition, desire and fierce determination. He has studied Khan in depth, and knows he is entering almost the last-chance saloon, as he bids to become Mexico's only ever four-weight world champion. He is tied on three with Julio Cesar Chavez, Erik Morales, and, as of last week, Juan Manuel Marquez too.
I think the fact that Marquez is riding so high (and remember Barrera pushed him close two years ago) and Morales is talking of coming back, has added fuel to the Barrera fire.
A close team of 40 family and friends have made the trip from Mexico - that's a serious sign. The arrival of his promoter Don King has also added gravitas to the confident, bubbly group. Marco has made quite an impact this week in Manchester, and I expect him to get a fabulous reception at the MEN.
Of course the big question hanging over Barrera is how much is left? The other pre-fight tittle-tattle amongst the boxing crowd rests largely on Khan's make-up.
The former Olympic silver medallist needs to get this right. His training camp in Los Angeles seems to have gone superbly, his body looks supreme, and his attitude and confidence are spot on. Now his tactics need to be.
Freddie Roach is of course a master strategist and believes Khan's movement is vital here. Speed is of course the key to Khan's game and gameplan. Barrera looks quicker than I thought he would, but the fast hands (and size) advantage lie with Khan.
He could make this fight work perfectly, but he must contain Barrera quickly, zipping in and out at phenomenal speed. Stay in there with the crack Mexican and he could be asking for real trouble. Of course his chin may very well be tested again too.
I have detected a few nerves amongst the Khan clan in the last few days, and that's surely understandable with both the nature of the task ahead, and the importance of Saturday as a crossroads career night. Another terrible loss will badly dent Khan's hopes and aspirations, even at his young age.
Roach is understandably apprehensive. If Khan keeps his concentration and doesn't rush in, he should win this fight on points, or maybe even by late stoppage. But this is no certainty; Khan can still make the odd mistake, and it wouldn't surprise me if there are one or two really bumpy moments.
So many of us have been swinging one way then the other with this compelling clash, and that is the sign of a really fascinating one. It's Khan for me to produce what we all hope he's capable of and to seal his finest win to date. But I would not put my house on it, or even my front room.
Let's enjoy the drama unfold...