After defeating him in their third meeting, Marco Antonio Barrera extended his hand to Erik Morales. What Barrera got in return was a water bottle thrown at him.
It's safe to say the fights between the two Mexican super featherweights have been grudge matches. That's the primary reason experts consider Barrera-Morales III -- a majority decision victory by Barrera for the World Boxing Council title -- a leading candidate to receive Fight of the Year honors from most boxing publications.
"After three fights, these guys still do not like each other," said Ring Magazine's Joe Santoliquito, "which is why their fights are such great fights."
And why a fourth meeting between the combatants is a distinct possibility for the fall of 2005.
"Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier II was a non-fight, and Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano III was a walk-over," said noted boxing historian Bert Sugar. "Barrera-Morales is probably the greatest trilogy in boxing history -- the only trilogy where each of the three fights was as good as the other."
Though Thomas Hauser, another respected boxing writer, said he doesn't see "Barrera-Morales as being on the same level as Ali-Frazier, if you look at their fights and what they meant to the Latino community, I can't think of any trilogy that has been more important."
"Barrera-Morales and [Felix] Trinidad-[Ricardo] Mayorga were good examples of the power and the draw that comes with those great battles between Latin fighters. They're reminders of the hunger that's usually there in the big fights between Latin fighters," said Chu Garcia, a sports and political columnist for Puerto Rico's largest newspaper, El Nuevo Dia.
"But I would say that Barrera-Morales ranks more highly in importance with Salvador Sanchez-Wilfredo Gomez, Gomez-Lupe Pintor and Alexis Arguello-Alfredo Escalara," said Garcia. "There's no doubt that for many members of the Latin community, even those in America, Barrera-Morales compares favorably to Ali-Frazier."
Four years ago, Barrera called Morales "an Indio," a racially disrespectful move rivaling Ali's calling Frazier "a gorilla" on national television. "It's a cultural war a lot of Americans don't understand," said Los Angeles Daily News reporter Robert Morales.
Barrera is lighter-skinned than Morales and comes from an upper-class neighborhood in Mexico City. Morales is from impoverished Tijuana.
"Let's just say if they were both from California, Barrera would be from Beverly Hills and Morales from Compton," Santoliquito said.
If Barrera-Morales is the top candidate, "then Trinidad-Mayorga runs a close second," said Sugar.
Trinidad, of Puerto Rico, ended a two-year layoff by hammering his loud-mouth, hard-punching, beer-drinking Nicaraguan rival. Floored three times in the final round, Mayorga left the ring with throbbing ribs, a bloody nose and a large diagonal gash on his left cheek beneath a swollen eye.
When Fight of the Year ballots are received by members of the Boxing Writers' Association of America over the next few days, their list of nominees won't include high-profile bouts such as light heavyweight Glen Johnson's ninth-round knockout of Roy Jones or his 12th-round split decision victory over Antonio Tarver; lightweight Diego Corrales' scintillating 10th-round knockout of previously unbeaten Acelino Freitas; or Tarver's second-round stoppage of Jones.
"Like other good fights, they were nominated and could certainly be on there," said BWAA president Bernard Fernandez. "There apparently are others that were considered more entertaining, competitive, action-packed two-way fights."
In addition to Barrera-Morales, Trinidad-Mayorga and Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao, under-the-radar brawls between super middleweights Scott Pemberton and Omar Sheika, and lightweights Ebo Elder and Courtney Burton will receive consideration.
Both Pemberton and Sheika were floored during Pemberton's 10th-round knockout win in January. Elder's eyes were near slits before the left-hander twice floored Burton and stopped him in the 12th.
"Tarver-Johnson was an entertaining, important fight and certainly was a highly visible one. But for thrill-a-minute type of action, it doesn't match up to Pemberton-Sheika or Elder-Burton," Fernandez said. "It's like a small, independent movie that plays to art house crowds and has terrific action going up against Titanic. A conscientious voter will try to learn as much as he can about those fights."
Fight of The Year nominees
Jan. 23: Scott Pemberton KO 10 Omar Sheika, super middleweights (168)
May 8: Juan Manuel Marquez D 12 Manny Pacquiao, WBA/IBF featherweight crown (126)
Oct. 2: Felix Trinidad KO 8 Ricardo Mayorga, middleweights (160)
Nov. 27: Marco Antonio Barrera MD12 Erik Morales, WBC super featherweight crown (130)
Dec. 17: Ebo Elder KO 12 Courtney Burton, lightweights (135)
Source: Bernard Fernandez, president of The Boxing Writers Association of America