LAS VEGAS – A bruised and battered Marco Antonio Barrera carried his young son to his final news conference as a professional boxer. Tears rolled down the cheeks of one of his corner men.
Promoter Bob Arum, who was on the opposite side in most of Barrera's biggest fights, urged the assembled media to give Barrera a standing ovation.
Manny Pacquiao, who minutes early had been blasting him with hard punches to the head, walked toward him and softly patted him on the back.
Everyone involved seemed despondent, except, oddly for Barrera.
"It is not a sad night, because I have done all I can do in boxing," Barrera said. "When you have done all you can, there is no reason to be sad."
Barrera did all he could on Saturday, but it wasn't nearly enough to compete with a fighter at least a few think is the best in the world.
Pacquiao was stronger and faster and clearly the superior boxer. Judges Jerry Roth and Glenn Trowbridge each had it 118-109 for Pacquiao, giving Barrera just two rounds. The third judge, Tommy Schreck, had it 115-112 and must have been watching a vintage Barrera tape instead of the live action.
Yahoo! Sports had it 119-108 for Pacquiao.
Barrera showed all the signs of an old fighter. He saw the openings where he could take advantage of Pacquiao mistakes, but he was unable to get off.
"He showed Pacquiao too much respect," promoter Oscar De La Hoya said. "He didn't let his hands go. I don't think he has to retire, because he showed me he can still fight. But he had so much respect for Pacquiao and didn't let his hands go like he should have."
Barrera, though, knew better. The few times that Barrera opted to trade punches with Pacquiao, he came out on the short end of the exchanges.
Barrera, who won two of three scintillating battles with Erik Morales largely on the strength of his brilliant counter punching, was either unable or unwilling to do so on Saturday.
Pacquiao, noting the less than sensational nature of the fight, pointed out it was because of styles.
"He's a counter puncher and I'm a counter puncher and sometimes, it's hard to throw when you are waiting to counter the other guy and he's waiting to counter you," Pacquiao said.
Barrera, who was stopped late in the 11th round of a 2003 meeting with Pacquiao, was able to slow the pace and negate much of Pacquiao's explosiveness by circling and giving Pacquiao angles.
He occasionally flicked a jab, but seemed largely content to get to the finish on his feet.
It's not the way he spent his brilliant career, which in five years will land him in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but he didn't bring the same ammunition to the war that he had on nights past.
"I just fought a great fighter," Barrera said. "Leave it at that."
The options for Pacquiao are limitless. Arum said he would leave it up to Pacquiao, but suggested he could meet David Diaz for the WBC lightweight title or face Juan Manuel Marquez in a rematch of a sensational 2004 draw.
Joan Guzman, the WBO super featherweight champion who has a difficult match against Humberto Soto on Nov. 17, called out Pacquiao in what also would be a terrific fight. "I'd worry about that fight first, if it were me," De La Hoya said, deadpan.
It was one of the few times in the night anyone connected with Golden Boy Promotions could smile.
Pacquiao, who spent most of the fight with a grin on his face, was answering questions about whether he's surpassed Floyd Mayweather Jr. as the world's top fighter.
"I don't want to put that in my head," he said. "I try not to let myself think I am anything special."
Trainer Freddie Roach has spent hours in the gym trying to refine Pacquiao's tactics. And though Saturday's bout didn't produce the highlight reel knockouts that have defined his career, Roach couldn't have been happier.
Pacquiao stuck to the game plan of jabbing and moving to the right and not getting into wild exchanges, which pleased Roach to no end.
"Manny fought a real smart fight," Roach said. "You can't have that long career if you're always in the fights taking a lot of shots. He's improving a lot. He's getting better and better each fight."
It was the type of thing that was often said about Barrera following one of his fights. He morphed from one of the game's great brawlers into a slick and highly underrated boxer.
Even on Saturday, when clearly he was only at a fraction of what he once was physically, Barrera controlled the way the fight was contested with his boxing ability.
He just wasn't able to pull the trigger when he needed to do so.
"It's been a long time and it's been a good time, but this is the right time to leave," Barrera said. "This is a beautiful sport and it's been great to me. I have had a lot of great accomplishments, but they'll all be in the past now. It's time to say thanks and goodbye. It's been a great career."
- Marco Antonio Barrera
- Manny Pacquiao