Out With the Old”:
Peden vows Barrera will be Next
By Jake Donovan
FightBeat President

 

For long-reigning stars of the sweet science, the past twelve months have been a brutal period. In that span, the likes of Roy Jones, Felix Trinidad, Oscar de la Hoya, Kostya Tszyu, Bernard Hopkins and most recently Erik Morales are among the longtime pound for pound entrants to have taken a major hit.

If Robbie Peden has his way this weekend, then Marco Antonio Barrera may very well be the next entrant in the “out with the old” sweepstakes.

If nothing else, intrigue surrounding this trend may help out what is otherwise a tough sale for this weekend’s PPV (Saturday, September 17, 9PM ET/6PM PT, live from Las Vegas). In order to find out if Barrera is in fact next in line and Peden (25-2, 14KO) the one to bump him off, it will cost you $44.95 to bear witness from the confines of your living room couch.

If you are brave enough to pay, Peden promises something he manages to provide every time he laces them up – giving fans their money’s worth.

“It’s been a career of ups and downs thus far, but this is the one fight I’ve waited my entire life for,” insists Peden, as he spoke to Fightbeat last week from his training camp in St. Petersburg, Florida. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as far as I’m concerned. Barrera’s a great fighter, a Hall-of-Fame fighter, and a great person. But he’s had his time. He’s in for a fight, and so are the fans, no matter who they are coming out to support.”

Chances are, the majority will be supporting Barrera. The junior lightweight fight takes place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, on a weekend in which Mexicans partake in their annual celebration of Mexican Independence Day. It’s safe to say that when Peden begins his walk to the ring, he won’t mistake the settings for his native Australia.

Then again, it’s not like the fans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles made Zahir Raheem feel like he was in Philly. But that didn’t stop the 1996 Olympian from thoroughly and convincingly knocking off Erik Morales. So who’s to stop 1992 and 1996 Olympian Peden from following suit?

Perhaps a different form of history.

In his only other fight against a top-flight Mexican, Peden was beaten into submission by Juan Manuel Marquez three years ago. Peden was the little engine that couldn’t that evening in Pittsburgh, which to date represents his lone appearance on an HBO telecast. Marquez was thorough, dominating the action in nearly every round. Peden absorbed so much punishment that night, he wound up puking in his corner after the tenth round, which prompted the stoppage.

And while it has been a brutal twelve-month stretch for longtime stars of the sport, it has been an even worse stretch for Australian fighters. In the same time span as cited earlier, Nedal and Hussein Hussein (a.k.a. Skinny and Hussy), Anthony Mundine, Danny Green and adopted son Kostya Tszyu have all fallen in major fights.

One Aussie has prevailed when it mattered most: Peden.

In his last fight, Robbie proved to the boxing world that his first win over Nate Campbell was no fluke. True, Campbell dropped his hands and literally waved his chin in the air, daring Peden to connect during their March 2004 encounter. Peden did, and erased a four round deficit with a single shot. Campbel was knocked out cold, and Peden was one fight away from fighting for his first world title.

Nearly one year later, Peden received that shot. The only catch – he once again had to go through Campbell. The two squared off in Australia for the rematch this past February. Campbell was willing to travel, but unable to hang with Peden. Campbell caught a major beating throughout before being saved by referee John Wright toward the end of the eighth round. After nine years, Peden finally silenced his critics by convincingly winning a big fight.

“The thrill of winning a world title – it goes unmatched,” says Peden of his title winning efforts. “I remember everyone saying that the first fight was a fluke, that Nate was going to do this and that to me. I proved in the first fight that I was the smarter fighter. I proved in the rematch that I am the smarter AND better fighter.”

For Peden, it was sweet justice. After having twice fallen short in the Olympic Games (1992 and 1996) and losing two title eliminators in a span of two years and six fights, “Bomber” exploded at a time when the rest of his countrymen were imploding in major fights. The country can certainly use a boost as far as big time boxing goes, and a win over Barrera would provide that and then some. For Peden, national pride is important, but not THE driving force behind this fight.

“I love my fans in Australia, don’t get me wrong,” explains Peden. “But I’m not going into this contest with any added pressure. Things happen in the sport the way they do. A few of my countrymen fell short of their goals this year. While I certainly don’t celebrate it, I don’t view my fight as avenging their losses. I’m not going into this fight with that in mind; I’m going into this fight with the intention of proving myself to be among the best in the world.”

He also goes into the fight with a rare advantage – getting to know his opponent well in advance. From 2000 to 2002, Peden served as Barrera’s chief sparring partner. He estimates having gone some 200 rounds in the gym with the Mexican great.

He is also credited with forcing Barrera’s 2002 rematch with Morales to be postponed, after having injured Barrera’s ribs during a sparring session. It was the last time the two trained together, which means this will be the first time in three years that the two will meet in a boxing ring. As many fans can attest to in following the sport through the years, a new and improved Peden will be entering the ring this weekend.

Peden believes that after having gotten to know the Barrera of old, what we will see this weekend is an old Barrera.

“I love Marco – I’ve met his family, and he’s taught me so much through the years. But the fact of the matter is that he’s been in a lot of wars, and isn’t getting any younger. We’re about the same age (both are 31, the two separated by two months in age). But I’m still a relatively fresh 31, where he is a 31 year old with over fifteen years of professional mileage under his belt. I expect the best of whatever he has left come Saturday night. But the best of what I have to offer will be enough to prevail, mark my words.”

There is some truth to all of that. Peden turned pro at age 23, after a brilliant run in the amateurs which saw him go 130-15 in winning five Australian nationals and twice compete in the Olympic Games. By the time he turned pro in 1996, Barrera was already 43-1 and went to war with the likes of Kennedy McKinney and Junior Jones.

It didn’t get any easier for the man once known as “The Baby-Faced Assassin.” Barrera lost a rematch to Jones, thrice went to war with Morales and was manhandled by Manny Pacquiao as recent as two years ago.

That’s not to say that it’s been one great stroll in the park for Peden, either. His fight with Marquez was as brutal a beating as anyone has absorbed in recent memory. His first fight with Nate Campbell was no picnic either, even if the end result put him in a good place.

Unlike Barrera, though, Peden has learned to pace himself through the years. Barrera was fighting no less than five times a year at one point, and presently has nearly three times the amount of fights as does Peden. While Robbie would prefer to be a bit more active, he’s learned to enjoy quality over quality on the occasions the industry failed to provide both.

“I haven’t fought a ton in the past few years, I recognize that,” admits Peden. “But it’s led me to a world title, and an opportunity to break through to the next level. Some ask if fighting Barrera after winning the title from Campbell is a wise move. I say why waste your time taking small steps toward the top when you can take one big leap. I beat Nate, and enjoyed the after-party, and the after-after party. I’m well-rested, and ready for Marco.”

While tis the season to take out a long-reigning superstar, jumping into a Barrera fight without so much as a gimme first defense is not the path that most would travel. Then again, Peden is unlike most fighters.

“Some will say it’s not an ideal fight after winning a world title. I say that it’s one hell of a first title defense. New faces are surfacing to the top more than ever these days. I can’t think of a better time for this fight to happen.”


For more information on Goossen Tutor Promotions, visit www.goossentutor.com

CONTACTS:

Rachel Charles
Goossen Tutor Promotions
(818) 817-8001
rachel@goossentutor.com

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Goossen Tutor Promotions
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Jim Sparaco
HP Pavilion
(408) 999-5792
jsparaco@svse.net