Rick Wright: Past, future highlight Teresa Tapia's compelling boxing card - Albuquerque Journal

Rick Wright: Past, future highlight Teresa Tapia’s compelling boxing card

FILE – In this April 7, 2001, file photo, Marco Antonio Barrera raises his arms as he parades around the ring after defeating Prince Naseem Hamed to win the IBO featherweight championship at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)

For many, Marco Antonio Barrera’s Hall of Fame boxing career is defined by his trilogy of violent masterpieces waged against countryman and bitter rival Erik Morales. Scorecard: Barrera 2, Morales 1.

For me, though, it is Barrera’s performance in April 2001 against then-undefeated Prince Naseem Hamed that tops them all.

Hamed, left-handed, impossibly awkward and possessed of paralyzing power, seemed unbeatable at the time. Barrera not only beat him, he unmasked him – exposed him as a one-trick pony.

Saturday at the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero, Barrera, now 47 and retired for a decade, will step into a boxing ring to face fellow Mexican and fellow former world champion Daniel Ponce de Leon.

Their six-round exhibition bout is the centerpiece of a card promoted by Albuquerque’s Teresa Tapia, the wife of the late world champion Johnny Tapia.

Beyond Barrera-Ponce de Leon, story lines are abundant.

There’s Teresa Tapia herself. Some 27 years after her marriage, 9½ years after five-time world champion Johnny Tapia’s death, she continues her devotion to boxing – largely as a continuing celebration of her late husband’s life and career.

Unofficially (source: boxrec.com), Saturday’s is the 12th card she has promoted since 2011.

There’s Nicco Tapia, the 16-year-old son of Johnny and Teresa, who’s scheduled to make his amateur boxing debut on Saturday’s undercard.

Johnny Lorenzo Tapia, Nicco’s older brother, made his amateur debut on his mother’s previous card in Mescalero on July 31 – losing by split decision. Nicco was to have debuted on that card as well but withdrew with a hand injury.

Neither Nicco nor Lorenzo is a biological son of Johnny Tapia. Even if they were, heredity would be no guarantee of a successful future in the sport; their father’s achievements in the ring were as much a product of where he came from and his “vida loca” as of his physical talents.

We’ll see.

There’s Abel Mendoza, the 25-year-old El Pasoan who has become a regular on Tapia’s cards. Mendoza’s glossy record (30-0, 23 KOs) reflects his obvious talent but has been compiled against mostly modest competition.

His scheduled opponent for Saturday, Mexico’s Victor Zaleta (20-5-1, 10 KOs), may or may not constitute a step up. Zaleta has lost his last three fights and, though his age is not listed on boxrec.com, has been fighting professionally for 14 years.

At some point, assuming a victory over Zaleta, Mendoza will have to take greater risks if he’s to become more than a regional powerhouse.

And there’s Ponce de Leon, Barrera’s opponent in Saturday’s exhibition.

Daniel Ponce De Leon poses for photos, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, after weighing in for his WBC featherweight title fight in Las Vegas against Jhonny Gonzalez. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

For non-boxing fans, this match isn’t quite equivalent to, say, Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe or McEnroe-Jimmy Connors. Think Borg-Stefan Edberg, or McEnroe-Jim Courier.

But, certainly, neither of those matchups would be a bad thing if they came to Mescalero, New Mexico. Nor is this.

Ponce de Leon, 41, doesn’t have quite the stature of Barrera. He’s not a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, as are Barrera and Johnny Tapia. Still, his résumé sparkles.

In July 2006, Ponce de Leon defeated Thailand’s Anusorn Jotjan for the WBO super bantamweight title. He defended it four times, adding the IBF belt along the way, before losing the title to Juan Manuel Lopez in June 2008.

Four years later, Ponce de Leon beat Jhonny Gonzales for the WBC featherweight title, losing the belt to Abner Mares in his first defense. He retired in 2014.

When they appeared together at a news conference in Albuquerque in September, Barrera and Ponce de Leon made it clear their bout was an exhibition and they would neither try to hurt nor to embarrass each other.

But they absolutely don’t intend to embarrass themselves – and absolutely do intend to show the crowd why they won 112 fights and six world titles between them.


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