CARSON, Calif. -- Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera
returns to the ring for the first time since suffering a
crushing defeat when he meets Paulie Ayala in a featherweight
bout Saturday night outdoors at the Home Depot Center.
Barrera (57-4, 40 KOs) was considered the top featherweight in
the world when he was soundly beaten in an 11th-round technical
knockout loss to Manny Pacquaio in November. Also recognized as
one of boxing's best pound-for-pound fighters, Barrera needs a
victory to secure a possible rematch against Pacquaio, a rubber
match against Erik Morales, or face countryman Juan Manuel
Marquez, who holds two-thirds of the 126-pound featherweight
Nicknamed "The Baby-Faced Assassin," the 30-year-old Barrera had
won eight straight bouts before losing to Pacquaio.
A former bantamweight champion, the 34-year-old Ayala (35-2, 12
KOs) won two exciting brawls with Johnny Tapia in 1999 and 2000,
but like Barrera, is at a crossroad in his career. Two fights
ago, Ayala was outclassed over 12 rounds by Morales for the
then-vacant WBC featherweight title in November 2002.
In his last fight, Ayala returned to his hometown of Fort Worth,
Texas and outpointed Edel Ruiz in November.
Also on the card, undefeated middleweight prospect Jermain
Taylor meets former junior middleweight champion Raul Marquez in
an intriguing matchup of former Olympians.
A 2000 bronze medalist at the Sydney Games, Taylor is taking a
step up in competition as he marches toward a possible title
shot late this year or early in 2005.
But the 25-year-old Taylor will have his hands full with
Marquez, a veteran southpaw, who is prone to cuts.
A silver medalist in the 1992 Olympics, Marquez (35-2, 24 KOs, 1
no-contest) once held the IBF junior middleweight title, and
made two successful defenses before losing to Yory Boy Campas
via an eighth-round stoppage in December 1997. Three fights
later, Marquez suffered the second loss of his career when he
was stopped by Fernando Vargas in the eight round in July 1999.
The 32-year-old Marquez is unbeaten in his last six fights (5-0,
4 KOs, 1 no-contest). The bouts will be televised by HBO
beginning at 9:45 p.m ET.