A boy named Bernice figured to have spent most of his adolescence fighting off bullies testing his manhood.
But super-middleweight Bernice Barber, who meets Alphonso Daniels of Rockville in an eight-round rematch at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie tonight, says he enjoyed a normal childhood.
"Sure, there was some teasing about my name when I was growing up in Virginia Beach," said Barber, now 29 and living in Tampa, Fla. "But I can't remember ever getting in a fight over it.
"And even though it sounds like a girl's name, I never thought of giving it up. Actually, I'm Bernice Barber III, going back to my great-grandfather. If it was good enough for him, it's good enough for me."
Barber (15-9-2) is more concerned with making a name for himself in professional boxing. Over six years, he has established himself as a solid club fighter, but blew opportunities to break into the rankings in losing bouts to former champions Paul Vaden, Julio Cesar Green and British titleholder Richard Woodhall.
Last February, Barber appeared to make a breakthrough by stopping former middleweight champion Glenwood Brown in the fifth round at Martin's West. But a month later, he took a fight in Germany and lost a decision to unbeaten Othan Delibas of the Netherlands.
"I know I've got to beat someone with a big name to take the next step," Barber said.
Barber got a late start in boxing after spending most of his youth as a martial arts expert. That led to a brief career as a kick boxer and a state title.
"There is really no money in kick-boxing," he said. "That's why I turned to boxing when I was 23. It wasn't a big transition. Basically, I just stopped using my feet. But I've never been what you'd call a technical fighter."
Barber's kick-boxing past has hindered his development as a pure boxer, suggests his manager, Bob Fregin.
"Bernice has a lot of bad habits," Fregin said. "He wants to make every fight a war. He'd rather trade punches than try to outbox a guy, and that's why he's lost some tough fights."
Barber does not argue the point. "If I had a choice," he said, "I'd like to have all my fights in a phone booth. I had an easy time with Glenwood Brown because he came right at me. But boxers like Vaden and Daniels [who won their first encounter in 1995] just waited to counter-punch. I prefer fighting the warrior-types."
Accept for brief periods working with trainer Bobby Jordan, Barber has been self-taught. Working full time as a brick mason, he has not earned more in the ring than the $7,000 he received for fighting Vaden two years ago.
"I know this is a rough business," he said, "but I've never been badly hurt. I love fighting and never worried about the money. I'd fight just for the joy of it. But I'm not crazy. I'll still take the money they give me."
Pub Date: 5/13/98