In February of 1996, WBO junior featherweight (super bantamweight) champion, Marco Antonio Barrera faced Kennedy McKinney in a title defense. Barrera was a hungry, young, undefeated champion, with a granite chin and a left hook to the body that would make the most well-conditioned of fighters crumble. McKinney, a former IBF junior featherweight champion, with only one loss in his career, was looking to regain a title.
At a press conference before the fight, McKinney, while speaking at the podium, turned to Barrera and proceeded to yell at Barrera, telling him he will not win. Barrera, feeling threatened and not fully understanding English at the time (he speaks fluent English now), threw a straight right hand at McKinney’s face. Things just got personal and this set up an intriguing fight on HBO’s new show, “Boxing After Dark”.
Round one started with Barrera stalking McKinney, who was jabbing immediately. Barrera slipped many of those jabs while missing counter-hooks to McKinney’s body. Then at the 2:30 mark, Barrera began to open up, initiating with a right hand and several more power punches. In between Barrera’s combinations, McKinney would throw a straight right hand that would stun Barrera very briefly. McKinney realizes early that the straight right can land on Barrera and relies on it as much as he relies on the jab. Barrera’s left hook to the body was hitting its mark as the round came to a close.
Round two began with both fighters working the jab. Eventually, Barrera started throwing lunging left hooks to the body. At about the 2:10 mark, Barrera began to open up on McKinney, but then a right hand from McKinney caused Barrera to back off. Both fighters boxed until the end of the round.
Round four consisted of Barrera unleashing a lot of body punches, but McKinney kept him on the ropes for much of the round. Towards the end, McKinney & Barrera had good two-way action.
In round 6, both fighters threw defense out the window. McKinney and Barrera landed power shot after power shot. It’s one of those rounds that you want to watch again. Marco Antonio Barrera finished the round strong by muscling Kennedy McKinney to the ropes and throwing combinations.
Round 8 began with both fighters boxing, measuring each other. It seemed like things were slowing down; not as much action. Then at the 1:07 mark, McKinney lands a right hands that snaps the head back of Barrera while he was sliding along the ropes. Immediately after, Barrera turns, lands a cross, hook to the body, then overhand right sending McKinney to the canvas. McKinney gets back up at the count of 8 and is sent retreating from Barrera as he bulls in with more power punches. Barrera lands an overhand right sending McKinney down again. McKinney’s solid chin, heart, and years of experience, finds a way to survive the round.
Round 10 was all McKinney. He was the aggressor, was in control, and was landing the significant punches.
Round 11 began with both fighters jabbing the other. Sometime after the first minute, McKinney lands a straight right while Barrera was turning towards him. This punch knocks Barrera off-balance, forcing him to touch the canvas with his glove and is called, rightly so, a knockdown. This is exactly the kind of shot that would eventually knock Barrera down in the first fight against Junior Jones, the man who took Barrera’s WBO Junior Featherweight title from him. Barrera took the shot well as he came out aggressively after the referee wipes Barrera’s gloves. Barrera lands a big shot shortly before the bell.
The final round was interesting. Right after the two fighters touch gloves, McKinney slips on a wet canvas and falls backwards. The referee calls it a knockdown because Barrera was landing shots during the whole sequence. McKinney backs away while Barrera comes forward. Big shots are being thrown by both fighters and McKinney slips again. The referee rules it a slip. Barrera, most likely feeling that this fight is close, pours on the punches. A jab, cross, hook to the body drops McKinney. The referee does not rule it a knockdown. Yeah, I’m getting confused too.. Barrera knows he has his man hurt and decides to give everything bit he has left to stopping McKinney. Several overhand rights from Barrera and McKinney is down for the final time. The referee waves the fight over with less than a minute to go.
Marco Antonio Barrera would defend the title three more times before losing it to Junior Jones. Kennedy McKinney would win the USBA title in his next fight and eventually get a shot with Barrera conqueror, Junior Jones. McKinney would stop Jones in the 4th round to finally win the WBO Junior Featherweight title. The 122 pound weight class was loaded with solid fighters during this time and for Barrera & McKinney to reach the heights they did in this era is a testament to their talent.