By Fiona Manning
Miguel Barrera, who lost his IBF minimumweight championship via devastating knockout in Tijuana on Sarurday night, is out of intensive care following emergency brain surgery on Sunday morning at the Hospital Del Prado de Tijuana.
The 24-year old Colombian fighter was easily winning his first title defense against local favorite Edgar “Tun Tun” Cardenas, who scored a shocking tenth round knockout over the previously undefeated Barrera.
Barrera (20-1-2, 12 KOs) had dominated the fight for nine-plus rounds until Cardenas (30-10-2, 16 KOs) connected with a right hand that sent Barrera to the deck.
The champion tried to rise but collapsed back to the canvas. He was taken from the ring on a stretcher to Hospital del Prado where he underwent surgery to relieve a blood clot that had formed on left part of his brain.
The IBF105-pound world title bout in Tijuana had been eagerly-anticipated but appeared to be a shut-out until the knockdown.
Local promoters hailed the medics who rushed into the ring and followed all the pre-arranged evac plans to have injured fighters delivered safely to the emergency room within the space of what California state medical director Dr. Paul Wallace describes as the “Golden Hour.”
“This probably saved his life,” said Dr. Wallace today. “This type of evacuation is exactly what we need to be prepared for because if we can lift a fighter to durgery within an hour, his chances are recovery are very high. With each passing minute after that one hour period, the chances become much smaller.
“Miguel Barrera’s knockout is the kind of situation which rarely happens in boxing actually but it is the kind of emergency situation we need to be prepared for. I am always telling promoters it only takes one punch, it only takes one fight.”
Barrera woke up from surgery early Sunday morning and was reportedly alert. He immediately recognized his manager Sergio Samsand trainer Orlando Pineda in the recovery room and was taken to the Intensive Care Unit.
He was moved to a private ward yesterday where he continues to improve.
“He gave me a thumbs-up yesterday,” said his trainer to the media which had gathered outside the hotel. “The doctors have been very encouraging. We are very relieved.”
Barrera is a scrapper, a fighter and a survivor. The son of a Colombian painter, he won the championship just two months ago in a rubber match against long-time nemesis Roberto Leyva in Las Vegas.
The fighter, who hails from the tiny town of Barranquilla, Colombia had dedicated his championship victory over Leyva to his father. He also dedicated this first title defense to him but at press time, there was no indication that Barrera’s family would travel to Mexico to visit their son.
“My father always had dreams of boxing being my ticket to success,” Barrera said prior to the Cadenas fight in a tele-conferencing call. “I plan to stay champion a long, long time.”
Barrera’s seemed invincible after his second match with Leyva last year. This was a fight which immortalized both men in fight fans’ minds.
Those who sat ringside at the New Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas were stunned when early in the 12th round of what was one of the great fights in Las Vegas’ rich boxing history, Barrera and Leyva clashed heads.
What appeared to be a ball of saliva went flying toward ringsiders.
But it was not saliva. It was one of Leyva’s teeth.
Leyva acted as if nothing had happened. The fight continued for two more brutal minutes before Barrera won via TKO.
True to the toughness of both men, Leyva said after the fight that he didn’t need dental surgery. The tooth that was knocked out was growing behind another tooth, and he wanted to have it extracted anyway. Barrera simply saved him the time and expense.
“Tell him I’ll charge him for that,” Barrera quipped.
Only time will tell if Barrera will return to the ring, but if his past record is any indication, it is only time he needs to pursue his destiny. As the great champion Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is one who gets up when he can’t.”
That sounds like the Miguel Barrera fight fans have come to know and love.
“This is the sweetest kid I ever worked with,” his emotional trainer told the press yesterday. “I know God has watched over him this far and we will ask him for just a little bit more help in getting Miguel back on the road to recovery.”