On Saturday night, April 7, The MGM Grand in Las Vegas hosted a Featherweight showdown that was being billed as “Playing With Fire”. “Prince” Naseem Hamed (35-0, 31 KOs) was set to square off against “The Baby-Faced Assassin” Marco Antonio Barrera (52-3, 38 KOs). It was a boxing fans dream. The year was 2001. Although known as a relentless Mexican warrior, Barrera entered the ring as a 3-to-1 betting underdog. A two-time world champion, Barrera had been in with the likes of Junior Jones, Kennedy McKinney and most recently an epic war with Erik Morales. The three-time champion Hamed was cocky, flashy, flamboyant, and most importantly, undefeated. His unorthodox style led him to victory over nine current or former champions en route to meeting Barrera. The bout, scheduled for 12 rounds, aired live on HBO’s pay-per-view arm, TVKO, with Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, and “Big” George Foreman seated ringside to call the live action. A wildly enthusiastic packed house was on hand as Barrera left his dressing room to enter the ring first. Cheers and jeers rained down from all four corners of the arena. A large contingent of Barrera fans wore sombreros and waved the Mexican flag while cheering their man. With Barrera now safely in the ring, those that weren’t standing rose to their feet in anticipation of Hamed’s entrance. Fireworks lit up the back of the arena as Hamed was carried to the ring above the crowd on a trapeze. All went according to plan until Hamed was hit with a beer thrown by a nearby fan. Perhaps it was foreshadowing as the moment symbolized the troubles that soon lie ahead. The Prince was lowered back to earth and walked the rest of the way to the ring. Merchant seized the moment, “Bring in the clown. Bring in the fighter. Same guy. I love it.” After referee Joe Cortez was introduced, the packed house went ballistic when Michael Buffer introduced the fighters. Finally, Round 1 was underway. Barrera, wearing blue and silver trunks, looked to hammer Hamed with his signature left hook bombs to the body. True to form, Hamed moved side to side and in and out with his hands down at his sides, inviting Barrera to come forward and punch. Barrera accepted the invitation. Less than a minute into the fight, Barrera launched two left hook missiles that landed flush on the face of Hamed. Lampley went into another stratosphere, “Gets to the body! Wobbled Naz with a left hook upstairs!”
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PALABRAS CLAVES: BOXING Marco Antonio Barrera vs Prince Naseem Hamed