Boxing


Barrera-Pacquiao; Leija Press Conference Coverage

16.11.03 - By Carlos Kalinchuk: Oscar took the mic along with Jesse James Leija first and they had this to say: Oscar DelaHoya: “I want to thank Leija for a spectacular win."

James Leija: “You don’t have to say “Jess” James Leija (Smiles).”

Oscar DelaHoya: “James, James, James. We’re looking for good things for James. He looked excellent today. He was in great shape. He’s hungry. I saw that he has a desire to become World Champion again. As his promoter, I will go and try and get a World Title for him. Obviously that’s his number one goal now that he’s determined to become world Champion again. Here’s your world Champion ‘Jesse’ James Leija to say a few words.” Applause.

James Leija: I took the challenge 8 years ago. That’s the kind of guy I am. You have to take risks in boxing and that’s why…Oscar was a great fighter then. He was an Olympic Gold Champion and what better way to go out than to test my skills with Oscar. People don’t understand how strong this guy is. He knocked guys out at 130, 135, 140, 147, and 154. This guy’s powerful. You don’t hear of guys carrying that type of power but he did that. And now he’s my promoter so I don’t have to fight him again (Laughs). Now we could just fight about him paying me more money (BIG LAUGHS).

Next James Leija took questions from the press.

Press: How about a fight with Arturo Gatti?

James Leija: That’s what I want.

Oscar DelaHoya: That’s what Jesse wants. We’ll be talking and we’ll have talks with HBO and talks with Gatti’s people and my job is as a promoter to make it happen. It’ s a very possible fight. Gatti’s people like the fight and it’s a matter of getting that signature on the dotted line. With me, a done deal is a signed deal or a signed deal is a done deal (Laughs).

Press: Is there a possibility that that fight can come here to San Antonio?

Oscar DelaHoya: Very possible. Very possible but we have to sit down with Gatti’s people and take it one step at a time.

James Leija: He has a fight in January and he has to win that fight first. If he wins that fight maybe we can get that fight soon.

Oscar DelaHoya: James has always been a star in boxing. He’s always had a loyal following from his fans. If he gets another world title shot, the whole world will want to see it. That’s the way they’ve been with him all these years and they will continue to be behind him. So yes 100% that is what we’re going to try and do.

Press: What are your thoughts on tonight’s fights?

Oscar Delahoya: “We’re just thankful everyone came out okay. Manny Pacquiao is a really, really good fighter. I respect him a lot. Not only as a person but as a fighter and as a human being. There’s no excuses whatsoever. Marco Antonio Barrera fought hard as he always does, but Manny Pacquiao…it was his night. I respect Manny Pacquiao and I respect Marco Antonio Barrera because they acted like gentleman. They respected each other and they fought hard and that’s what really brings integrity to the sport. So you’re Champion, Manny Pacquiao.” Applause.

Murad Muhammed next took the mike and had this to say.
“First of all, we want to thank Oscar. To be a great Champion who’s now an entrepreneur, to decide and reach back and help the athletes in the field that he loves so much…and we thank Oscar for that. Also I explained to Manny that he was coming into the home of Barrera and our Mexican brothers and our Latino brothers and sisters, have a love for their people especially a great Champion like Marco Antonio Barrera. I said to him, that if you come here and you win impressively…one thing about the Latinos is they will follow you and give you your respect. I introduce to you one of the greatest champions, and I’ve had many in the field but one of the best in this field-Manny Pacquiao.” Applause.

Manny Pacquiao:“First of all I want to thank everybody and HBO and Golden Boy Promotions and Oscar DelaHoya very much. I want to thank Barrera’s people. Thank you for those of you who always support boxing. I would like to thank God for giving me strength tonight…for giving me the victory. And thank you very much to all my countrymen who supported me tonight. And to my company, especially my trainer and company thank you very much. God Bless.” Applause.

Manny Pacquiao:
“I want to thank the Rosario’s. They are 3 generations of boxers in the Philippines. They came to America and they said I’ve got the next world champ. I want to thank HBO’s Kerry Davis. He’s got a lot of class because he saw what I saw. People kept saying why are you picking Manny Pacquiao? He would say, he’s a diamond in the rough. They would say he’s not sure of what he’s dong and for that I give him credit.” Applause.

Press: Did the champ ever feel like he was in trouble?

Manny Pacquiao: “In the 5th round he hit me hard. Barrera has power and he’s a good boxer and so in the 5th round he hit me 3 times and I felt it.

Press: What did Freddie tell you towards the end of the fight?

Manny Pacquiao: My trainer said, "Be confident. Throw a lot of punches. Therefore don’t focus too much on the body now, now do body head body head and that bothered him.

Press: Was your speed the difference in the fight?

Manny Pacquiao: “Yes the speed made a difference. We trained a lot on using speed: speed and power.

Press: Will you be going back to 122 or stay at 126?

Manny Pacquiao: We don’t know yet. We will talk with my company about that.


Murad Muhammed:
“What we have is a mandatory. With Bowana who won the Mandatory for the IBF Championship at 122 lbs. We thank the President of the IBF (His wife) Marion Muhammed for allowing us to keep our belt, if in fact if we would have lost the fight, we would have still been the 122 lb IBF World Champion. We decided to follow through on the contract and he (Bowana) will be the mandatory. We also want to open the floor to one of the greatest trainers. I love this man. He comes from one of the greatest mentors-Eddie Futch. Freddie Roach said to me the other day when I walked into camp the other day, he said, in my gut, I haven’t felt like this in a long time. We’re going to win the fight. So ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think we could have done this without a great trainer like Eddie Futch-oops I mean his re-incarnation in Freddie Roach.” Applause.

Freddie Roach:“Manny’s famous in the Philippines and now he’s famous in America and this is what we’ve been looking for. To be a great fighter, you have to beat great fighters. And this was Manny’s time. And Manny went out there; he worked really hard for this fight. He’s such a great kid to work with. He trains hard. I tell him to take Sundays off from running, he says, “No coach, my opponent might be running everyday. I have to run everyday. He’s a dedicated kid. You can’t ask for a better pupil. He listens well and I’m just happy to be a part of his team.”

Press: What did you think when you were knocked down in the first?

Manny Pacquiao: I know they counted it a knockdown but it was a slip. He didn’t hit me. It was a slip but I wasn’t thinking about that because it was only the first round and there’s more rounds. It’s only the 1st round.

Press: Anybody that you’d like to call out?

Manny Pacquiao: It depends on who’s the opponent.

Murad Muhammed:“Manny has called out Ayala. He always has. A then he wanted anyone that looks like a threat to him. And this is the one thing that we like about him. He doesn’t care who he fights. If anybody in the 122 or 126 lbs feels that they’re a threat, that’s what we really want.”

Press: Juan Manuel Marquez?

Murad Muhammed: We’ll take Marquez too and we hope the press comes back (laughs).

Press: What did you expect from Marco?

Manny Pacquiao: He’s in excellent shape. I know he trained really hard in Big Bear. But Marco Antonio Barrera is a good guy and his company. I prayed to the Lord that we have a good fight and that no one gets hurt. I prayed that not just in my fight but in the whole fight card that no one gets hurt in this fight.

Press: Was there something in the video that you saw that showed you that that overhand left was going to open all night long?

Freddie Roach: I didn’t watch any videos. I know Marco too well. The thing is Marco does have trouble with South Paws and he’s never faced a South Paw with the Speed of Pacquiao and I thought that would be a huge weapon for us and we worked in the Gym hard on it everyday and the thing is we have a great team. His promoters. His conditioning coach Jackson Forshin takes him to the mountains everyday. If we lost tonight…there was nothing…he fought the best Manny Pacquiao he could be. And Manny trained hard for this fight and he did what I expected him to do.

Press: No one thought he’d win this fight, how did he do it?

Freddie Roach: I thought he did. (Laughs). Applause.

Suddenly Marco Barrera and his team stepped to the stage and hand shakes and both fighters gave congratulatory hugs to both teams.

More applause. Fighters find their seats.

Oscar DelaHoya:
“Thank you for supporting Marco. Every Champion has a bad night and I’m just proud of Marco because he always behaves well and he continues to be the Latinos Champion.”

Big applause.

Marco Antonio Barrera: “Good evening everyone. I want to thank everyone that came to the Alamodome to support me. Unfortunately we had a bad night. There’s no pretext and there are no excuses. I want to thank Manny Pacquiao. I think he’s one of the best in boxing today. He’s a champion. I want to thank Oscar DelaHoya and Golden Boy, I appreciate all the support I’ve received and we’re going to rest and see who’s in store for me. I just have left to say that I want to thank all of you for being here and supporting me. Thank you.” Applause.

After translating Oscar said, “Marco, for that, my hat goes off to you.” Big Applause.

Murad Muhammed:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, my athlete doesn’t speak English that well but he does very well. And we want to say to Antonio Barrera, that he’s one of the greatest Champions that has ever come in our field. The real key factor of this man is his character. His demeanor that you see today, you feel that he’s been like this for the duration of his entire career. Outside of the ring, he’s indeed a gentleman. A scholar and he’s an intelligent man and we believe that it was Manny Pacquiao’s night. I don’t believe that Marco Antonio Barrera is through. Once again, Muhammed Ali got beat. Joe Frazier got beat. Ray Robinson got beat. Some of the greatest fighters of all time got beat but it’s the fighter that comes back. We believe that Marco Antonio Barrera is still here to stay and will return.” Applause.

At this time, one of the press people from Telemundo stood up and said “I want to thank both fighters because no one said anyone cheated or anything like that and so I want to thank both camps for behaving like gentlemen.”

BIG APPLAUSE.

Press: Did you know he was going to be so powerful and that he was going to be able to bang with you?

Marco Antonio Barrera: Yes we were aware of his quality and his capabilities. He wiped out the 122 lb division. Unfortunately we had a bad night. I will repeat, there are NO excuses and no pretexts Manny Pacquiao won tonight.” Applause.

Press: Did you have a problem making weight?

Marco Antonio Barrera: No. I had no problem making weight. I had problems with the preparation though. I had some distractions leading up to the fight with my head and people distracting but the weight was fine.

Press: Are you going to invoke your rematch clause?

Marco Antonio Barrera: In reality I don’t know. I’m going to take a break with all my family and then speak with Oscar DelaHoya.

Barrera added:
“I wasn’t the same. I had distractions but in every sense of the word he beat me. I couldn’t concentrate and I could not focus ever. I will repeat, this is a sport of men, and he won and he is a great champion.” Applause!

Press: Did the forest fires affect training?

Marco Antonio Barrera: Yes. I was only there 2 weeks because of the fires. We arrived in San Antonio and then they sent us to Houston for exams. I came here from Houston and then I was fighting with the attorneys. It was a little tough but it passed and now I want to look forward.

Murad Muhammed:“Before you ask your question, I want to straighten something out. I want to give this credit to Antonio Barrera. Ladies and Gentlemen, there was no rematch clause. Antonio Barrera knew that he had a mandatory. He fought this boy with his heart. He believed he was going to win. He took a gamble. He did not ask for a rematch clause because he said I don’t want to disrespect your obligations with the IBF. You sign the fight, we fight. So I want you all to know that this man right here (Barrera) makes no excuses. He did not ask for a rematch clause.” Applause.

Press: You don’t want to make any excuses but didn’t you suffer some vision loss after the head-butts occurred?

Marco Antonio Barrera: No. Nothing. We very simply had a bad night but physically and mentally I’m going to come back 100%.

Press: Rudy Perez said after the fight you should retire. What are your thoughts about that?

Marco Antonio Barrera: I’ve been with Rudy a long time. He’s like a second father and I think that no one like to see someone take a beating. I think that was his reaction this night but we are going to take the calmly and we’ll see what lies in store for us.

Press: At what round did you know that you had to do something really dramatic to win this fight?

Marco Antonio Barrera: I don’t want to try and fool the people as if I was winning. From the 6th round on we knew we had to do something. Because we were doing everything wrong.

Press: What comments and words of encouragement did Oscar give you after the fight since he too has suffered heart breaking losses but also a very legitimate one in his first fight with Shane Mosley?

Marco Antonio Barrera: That is a good question. I want to thank Oscar DelaHoya right now. He has behaved like a gentleman and a man before and after the fight. He told me that even though what happened, happened, he’s here for me. To support me and he’s with me always. I think that makes you feel better that you can get off the canvass and move on.

Oscar DelaHoya:“I want to say that Marco is a Gentleman. A true class act in the sport. I will be with him and support him as long as he wants me to. He’s a friend above all things and business partner second and I’m very appreciative of my association with such a fine person and fighter.”

Earlier in The Evening “Jesse” Leija did a separate post fight press conference after his victory over 2nd Round KO of Fernando Mena. Oscar could not attend that press conference for security reasons but this is the Leija Post Fight Press Conference in its entirety.

James Leija: “I was in Houston with Ronnie Shields for 6 weeks and I just think it made a huge difference. I was so nervous for this fight it was incredible. Being in Houston and sacrificing like I haven’t sacrificed since 1995 and being away from the family (which is the toughest part) and being alone, the only time I talked to anyone that I knew really well, was Ronnie (Shields) and that was two hours in the Gym. Other than that I was alone the whole time. And it was tough but I said I’m going to make a BIG sacrifice for this fight. My kids are grown up. The kids understand what daddy’s doing now. But back in 92,93,94 they just knew I was missing and I wasn’t going to do that to my kids and now I’m ready to re-commit myself to boxing and throw everything into boxing and that aspect. That’s not to say I haven’t had a great career even though I was here in San Antonio training hard and doing the whole bit, I had to take that little extra step and just get away from everything and train hard and having a good sparring partner and having a great trainer. Ronnie has always been part of our team since 1990. We were here at home and he was doing his things but we’ve always been good friends since.”

Press: James Leija: Was the plan to use the double left jab followed by the right?

James Leija: That’s what we worked on everyday in Houston. Making the jab work and making it count and throwing every punch with something behind it. When I threw the right hand, I threw the right hand with bad intentions. That’s what we were training for in the gym and that’s what happened in the fight. (In the past) Usually I throw them to set up a different punch but when we were in the gym Ronnie said ‘Every punch has to count, every punch has to hurt and if you throw a right hand, throw it to hurt the guy!’ Sometimes I would throw right hands at times but sometimes I would throw right hands to set up a hook. This time every punch has to be hard.

Press: You hit him with a pretty hard right in the first right that backed him up?

James Leija: Yeah. I noticed that but I didn’t want to jump on him right away. The first thing we wanted to do in the first round was set up our jab.

Press: Were you trying to also be more aggressive?

James Leija: No. I was just trying to fight my fight and my pace at my timing and throw punches when I wanted to throw them and not fight when I didn’t want to fight and basically control the fight on my terms. That was the whole key. When I was in Houston I was sparring with guys…one guy was close to 6 foot. The other guy was a 22 or 23 year old with a lot of power and just non-stop. I tell you, Ronnie worked my butt off over there! At times I looked at him and said, man I ought to go back to San Antonio (smiles) where I can take it easy! We just worked hard and it paid off.

Press: With less than two rounds of work, does that accelerate the timetable to fight a person like Gatti or someone else?

James Leija: Not for Gatti because he has a fight already scheduled to fight for the number 1 spot in January.

Press: Would you then wait for him or would you like to fight again?

James Leija: Well it’s not up to me, well it is up to me but I have to talk with my managers. My trainers and Oscar and my manager and the whole bit. I don’t know. Maybe I will get a fight in between since I didn’t get too much wear and tear in this one.

Press: What do you say to your critics who say you’re getting old?

James Leija: We’re all getting old aren’t we (laughs)? We are getting old right? It’s just about trying to get better. And the thing I may have on me is age but I have all this experience. I’ve always had great training. My Dad and Ronnie…I’ve had so many great trainers that have come in and added some. We’ve always taken some pieces together and just pieced them together. I’ve had a great, great career but for some reason I was so nervous for this fight because I saw the kid fight. I saw him fight in Laredo and today, Ronnie and I back in Houston watched 4 rounds today I watched a whole tape I and said man, hey, do you know this guy does not stop coming the whole fight! I only saw 4 rounds at first but then I saw that he’s doing the same things in the 8 and 9 and 10th rounds! And he was fighting Joe Hutchins who almost beat Gatti in Canada.

Press: Then this was great practice for Gatti?

James Leija: Yeah! Gatti may look at this and say maybe he doesn’t want me now because he almost lost to this guy!

Press: Were you afraid of being too pumped up in the ring because the crowd was really, really behind you?

James Leija: Yeah, I knew that I had to just take my time and that was the whole key to this. Just be patient and work my jab everything was going to be set up with the jab. But was nervous. After the first round my legs still felt like they hadn’t loosened up at all. The first round was pretty easy and it went my way. Ronnie said you won the first round. Just give me another one like that and add a little bit more pressure and that’s what we did. The guy cannot fight backing up and once he starts backing up, I knew that he wasn’t fighting his style.

Press: Were you surprised the referee shoved you back so hard (and made you fall)?

James Leija: He just got lucky (laughs)! I was fighting two guys in there, I was hitting this guy and the referee was pushing me around. He caught me with a good push.

Press: That’s was the best offense against you all night.

James Leija: Yeah (smiles).

Press: Can you speak about Oscar and how he’s taken fighters who’ve been put on the shelf like Raul Marquez and yourself and…how he’s opened the door for you?

James Leija: Oscar’s doing great. He’s going to be a good promoter-a great promoter but it’s a two way street. He needs the TV and he needs the older fighters to bring along the younger fighters and I think that’s what we’re doing and I think he’s helping us out as well. He’s giving us good cards. He’s giving us good fights but it’s a two way street. He needs us and we need him.

Press: You’re taking each fight at a time and your basing each fight on a fight-by-fight basis…

James Leija: Well I have 3 fights left with DelaHoya.

You’re mentioning right now that you’re recommitted to boxing.

I’m going to throw everything I can into the next 3 fights. After that I’m not sure what’s going to happen but I know I can’t go on forever! I am old now so we just going to take each fight one at a time and go from there. If the Gatti big fight comes up like the Gatti fight that may happen, it may not. If it does then we take it and train hard for it and see what it gives us.

Press: What’s life after boxing going to be like?

James Leija: Busy. I’m working with Red McCombs (HUGE AUTOMOTIVE DEALER IN SAN ANTONIO) and I’m working with PowerAde, which is the best so you make sure you tell everyone!
(BIG LAUGHS)

James Leija: Drink PowerAde. I was drinking my PowerAde right before I walked in the ring and that may be the new deal. That’s that new power I have!
(LAUGHS).

James Leija: Well like I said, that Red McCombs and business ventures that I manage and co-manage with Michael Miller and we’re just trying to do a whole bunch of things.

Press: Before you fought, you were in the corner of Gabriel Elizondo. Did you use some of your energy there?

James Leija: Yeah that was probably one of the first times I did that. We had enough time. Come on man, I’ve been doing this for so that I’m a pro and I know I have to get ready and go back and concentrate on my fight. There’s was enough time and if there wasn’t Ronnie wouldn’t have let me or anyone else.

Press: Are you in the best shape of your life right now?

James Leija: I don’t know about best physically, but I use my head to be my best. I run hard. Ronnie trained me hard and one thing about Ronnie, he’s just like my Dad. He’s just like my Dad! He really doesn’t over state ‘You’re doing great, you’re doing this.’ I don’t hear that from Ronnie and sometimes I want to hear something but I never heard it from my Dad either. They tell me my mistakes and they tell me what I’m doing wrong. My Dad’s always done that from day 1. And I’ve always criticized him for that and said you never tell me when I’m doing good! If I don’t say anything good then you’re okay but I need to correct your mistakes so you don’t get hurt. And that’s the same way Ronnie is. He corrects my mistakes but he doesn’t tell me I’m being great. You want to hear that sometimes!

Press: In terms of training, what did you concentrate on for this fight?

James Leija: Just trying to get his balance right. Sometimes when he throws, his balance is off. With the power James has, and stepping into punches and that’s why you saw the right hand tonight. He throws punches to set punches up but when you have punches those punches have to be hard and you saw it tonight. He just got in there and hurt him.

Press: Did you notice the nerves that he said he was feeling when he got back to the corner?

Ronnie Shields: I knew it. I knew he was nervous. I said this guy has never been in a big fight like this so he’s going to be nervous. He said he might jump out on me but I said I don’t think he’s going to do that. Just take your time. If you hit him harder, this guy is going to start backing up and I sent him forward.

James Leija: After the first round Ronnie said the guys getting hit and he’s backing up so that’s
what we did. He’s never fought that way. He’s always been an aggressive fighter and once he’s backing up, he was on his heels and I was able to capitalize on the right hand.

Press: Talk about the punch sequence that ended the fight?

James Leija: I dropped him with a double jab then a right hand and then I looked at my corner and Ronnie said come back on him with a double jab right hand. And that’s what I did. I might have smothered myself right when I went to the ropes the first time, but then I tried to throw my left jab and my right hand over his left.


Carlos “Stiff-jab” Kalinchuk
Contributing Writer and Photographer

Article posted on 16.11.2003



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