LAS VEGAS – If Manny Pacquiao counts a number of his fights as among those tops in his playlist, trainer Freddie Roach cherished just one and only bout.
And it’s not against Oscar Dela Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and the other welterweights who tried to stand in the way of the destructive Pacman.
It’s the 2003 bout against the great Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
“My most favorite is the first Barrera fight,” said Roach about which Pacquiao match he ranks the best. “That fight puts him (Pacquiao) on the map.”
Pacquiao was already the International Boxing Federation (IBF) super-bantamweight champion when the chance to take on Barrera came 13 years ago at a time the Mexican was considered the best featherweight fighter in the world.
Emil Romano, the former Pacquiao trainer prior to the Filipino’s invasion of the rich American boxing market in 2001, initially had his reservations about the 12-round non-title bout.
“Sabi niya sa akin, 'Kuya, labanan ko si Barrera.' Ako naman medyo alangan kasi ang laki ni Barrera. Pero sabi ni Manny, 'Kaya ko yan,'” recalled the 51-year-old trainer.
True enough, the Filipino southpaw overpowered Barrera in a dominant performance that ended with Pacquiao scoring a major upset following an 11th round technical knockout.
The two would meet in a rematch four years later at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, which the Fighter of the Decade easily handled with a 12-round unanimous decision.
For the 56-year-old Roach, beating Barrera black and blue was the defining moment of Pacquiao’s legendary career.
“It’s more of my favorite fight,” he said.