Barrera calls Ayala 'very game'

CARSON, Calif. -- Marco Antonio Barrera knocked out Paulie
Ayala in the 10th round of a featherweight fight between two
former champions Saturday night.

In the co-feature, Little Rock's Jermain Taylor was credited
with a ninth-round knockout of Raul Marquez to retain his WBC
Continental Americas middleweight championship.

Just when ringside observers had begun to whisper that the Barrera of old --
the 'Baby-Faced Assassin' who took no prisoners -- was gone for good, the
former champion who was brutally beaten by Manny Pacquiao last November
showed fight fans that the fire is still there. He showed that he still has a wicked left hook to the
body to go with his educated jab and footwork.

A left hook to the liver followed by a hook-cross combination put Ayala down
midway through the eighth round. Another hook to the ribcage dropped Ayala
for the second time before the round ended. Ayala fought his way back in the
ninth round, but the former bantamweight champ ran into a perfectly timed
counter right hand near the end of the 10th round. Ayala crumpled over in
pain upon impact, just a split second before another evil left hook to the
body from Barrera sent him sprawling to the canvass. Referee Pat Russell
waved the bout off at 2:44 of the round.

"On the last knockdown, he caught me very hard in the ribs,"
Ayala said. "I lost my breathing. I decided to take a knee and
that was it."

Before the eighth round, Barrera controlled the action so well with his jab
and footwork that he took the "action" out of the bout. But midway through
the seventh round, Ayala, who had lost every round to that point, decided to
go for broke and press the issue. Ayala woke Barrera up with his aggression
and then he paid the price. Barrera stunned him with a combination before
the end of the round.

Barrera landed 231 of 593 punches, while Ayala landed 80 of 341,
according to CompuBox statistics.

Barrera weighed in at 125½ pounds while Ayala was at the
126-pound featherweight limit.

Those who were whispering ringside that the older, kinder boxing version of
Barrera would not be able to take Pacquiao in a rematch had to stop and take
notice. The left hooks to the body that Barrera landed on the game Ayala in
the next three rounds convinced many observers that maybe he can gain
revenge over his Filipino nemesis and perhaps compete in all-Mexican
showdowns with Juan Manuel Marquez and old-foe Erik Morales.

"I wanted to show that there's a lot more of Marco Antonio Barrera to come,"
Barrera, who improved to 58-4 (41), said at the post-fight press conference.

"I was surprised that I stopped him. I've seen him take the best shots from
all of these good fighters. But the hard work paid off."

Prior to his fight with Pacquiao, Barrera's training camp was hampered by a
string of distractions - from brush fires to the revelation that he had
brain surgery in the late '90s. There's no doubt those things took away
from his game vs. Pacquiao, but Barrera had also become complacent in his
training and far too comfortable with his boxing skills. For this fight, he
trained like an animal and when he needed the beast in the ring, it was
there for him.

Ayala, who fell to 35-3, had never been stopped before. Even Morales, who
beat him unmercifully two years ago, was unable to put him down.

The 34-year-old Ayala was uncertain if he would fight again.

"I'm going to talk to my wife, Leti, and I'm going to pray,"
Ayala said "I don't want to wind up a punching bag."

It looks like the 11-round beatdown Barrera absorbed from Pacquiao last year
rekindled his hunger.

And it looks like Barrera's promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, wants to feed
the veteran of their stable a title holder for his next fight.

One option is Injin Chi, the rugged WBC title holder from Korea. Another is
Mike Anchondo, a young junior lightweight contender who will fight for the
vacant WBO 130-pound title later this year. If Barrera can win a world title
in his next fight, his promoters hope to match him in a mega-fight with
either Morales (if the 130-pound title holder gets past Carlos Hernandez
next month), WBA/IBF champ Juan Manuel Marquez, or with Pacquiao.

Whoever Barrera takes on next, he'll need to show the fire he showed in
rounds eight and 10 tonight from the opening bell.

In the co-featured bout, middleweight contender Jermain Taylor continued his
on-the-job training with a dominating ninth-round stoppage of former IBF junior middleweight
titlist Raul Marquez.

Taylor, who improved to 21-0 (16), punished Marquez with his jab and many
thudding right hands throughout the one-sided contest. Near the end of the
ninth round, Taylor landed a sweeping right uppercut that staggered Marquez.
A follow-up right hand put the game former champ down just before the bell.
Soon after Marquez arrive to his corner, his trainer Ronnie Sheilds signaled
to referee Jack Reiss that his fighter had taken enough punishment.

"He started getting hit too much," Sheilds said. "I'm going to talk to him
about quitting."

Sheilds can save the lecture. Marquez, who dropped to 35-3, announced his
retirement at the post-fight presser.

"I think this was a great learning fight for Jermain, because Raul has
probably forgotten more about boxing than most fighters out there know,"
said Lou DiBella, Taylor's promoter.

It was a performance that could best be described as workmanlike for the
young work-in-progress. Taylor exhibited his usual hard jab and powerful
right hand, but he also showed some new punches like the uppercut. His
footwork was much improved, but he still tends to lean into his jab and
telegraph the right.

Taylor wisely held Marquez when the Texan got in close, but he didn't really
do much work on the inside. That is someting that will have to change before
he takes on the world's top 160-pound fighters (never mind Bernard Hopkins),
but it looks like Taylor is learning something new with every fight.
Hopefully, his next learning experience will come against an active prospect
or contender who is not a former 154-pounder.

Information from The Associated Press and Maxboxing.com was used in this report.