Barrera impressive; Gainer retains title!

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Universally recognized featherweight king Marco Antonio Barrera (57-3, 40 KOs) outclassed and overwhelmed faded former champ Kevin Kelley (54-6-3, 36 KOs), stopping him in four brilliant rounds Saturday night in the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The 35-year-old Kelley had no business being in the same ring with the 29-year-old Mexican champion to begin with. His timing and reflexes of old were gone, allowing Barrera to rock him with power shots all throughout the fight while receiving no punishment in return.

Barrera waited for an opportunity and found one right away, dropping Kelley with a vicious short right/left hook combination halfway into the opening round.

The next two rounds saw Barrera outland Kelley with stiff jabs to the head and powerful hooks to the body. Kelley tried to come out aggressively in the third but was countered to the body effectively by the Mexican.

Barrera's patience paid off in the fourth as Kelley was dropped from a right hand to the head in the first minute of the round. Kelley rose to his feet but was knocked down again by a right hand to the temple.

Kelley showed bravery by getting up again but Barrera attacked him relentlessly, forcing referee Robert Byrd to put a halt to the pummelling 1:32 into the fourth round.

After the fight, Kelley was class in defeat and praised Barrera's power and skill.

"I really wanted to make history," Kelley said. "He's the king."

On the undercard, WBA featherweight titlist Derrick Gainer (38-5, 24 KOs) successfully defended his belt with a close 12-round split decision over Colombian challenger Oscar Leon (23-3, 16 KOs).

The Colombian attacked Gainer aggressively throughout the first five rounds, outworking and outlanding the Pensacola native on the inside, though Gainer landed some good body shots. Gainer appeared to win the third by countering Leon effectively with hard shots to the face, but otherwise looked lethargic and rusty throughout the first five rounds.

In round six and seven Gainer appeared to settle down and figure out Leon's style, landing several good right hooks against the challenger. The eighth was much of the same but Gainer punctuated it with a brutal left hook to the body that dropped Leon just as the round came to a close.

Leon came out aggressively and won the ninth by outworking Gainer but was dropped again by a counter right hook to the face from Gainer in the 10th.

In an attempt to pull the win out, Leon outworked Gainer in the 11th and 12th rounds but was unable to overcome the two decisive knockdowns. Scores were 117-110 and 114-112 for Gainer and 114-112 for Leon.

After the fight, Gainer gave Leon credit by saying his aggressive style did cause him some problems.

"He came at me a little bit more than I wanted him to, but we still got the victory," Gainer said.

WBO bantamweight champ Cruz Carbajal (23-11-1, 19 KOs) pummelled Ghanian challenger Steve Dotse (21-6-2, 18 KOs) mercilessly for two rounds, forcing referee Joe Cortez to stop the fight after round two when the ring doctor determined Dotse could not continue.

Dotse came out jabbing at Carbajal in the opening round, but once the hard-punching champ connected with a right hand to the face Dotse was little more than a living punching bag to Carbajal for the rest of the round.

Carbajal brutalized Dotse in round two, landing uppercuts, hooks and straight rights with reckless abandon. He ripped so many shots to Dotse's head that the Ghanian had no clue where he was and walked to the wrong corner at the bell to end the second.

After a few seconds passed Cortez directed Dotse to his corner and had the ring doctor examine him. It was determined Dotse was in no condition to continue and the fight was stopped, giving Carbajal the win.

Story © Andres Buenaventura 2003. All rights reserved.