Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera put on another battle for the ages Saturday, with Barrera coming out on top in a wild slugfest that was every bit the equal of the classic bout the two fought four years ago.
Barrera won a majority decision by the slimmest of margins to take the WBC super-featherweight title from Morales in the rubber match between the two Mexican warriors.
Barrera held two fingers in the air to signify his second win in a row over Morales, who stared in disbelief as the decision was read.
Barrera was favored 115-113 on one card and 115-114 on a second. The third judge had it 114-114.
The Associated Press also had the fight even, 114-114.
Before an loud crowd that filled the MGM Grand hotel-casino arena and seemed split between the two fighters, Morales and Barrera gave them all something to cheer for in a fight that began at a furious pace and rarely slackened.
It was reminiscent of their first fight in 2000 in which the two boxers traded more than 1,500 punches before Morales won a split decision. They did the same thing Saturday night, but this time it was Barrera on top, just as he was in their first rematch two years ago.
Morales was a 3-1 favorite in a fight that matched two boxers with no love for each other who both enjoyed big followings from their respective parts of Mexico. The animosity showed when Morales refused to touch gloves on several occasions and after the ninth round when Barrera threw a late punch and Morales had to be restrained from going after him.
Morales was bleeding from the nose from the early rounds on and his left eye was swelling by the eighth round from getting hit with left hooks by Barrera. But he gave as good as he got and the two stood and slugged toe-to-toe throughout the fight.
Barrera was fighting for the first time at 130 pounds, but he seemed to be the stronger fighter in the early rounds, landing some thundering left hooks to the body and head. Morales came back with straight right hands and both were willing to stand and mix it up with every punch thrown.
Both fighters rocked the other with punches, but neither went down and both were fighting with the same intensity in the 12th round as they were in the first.
In the final two rounds, the two fought furiously as the crowd stood on its feet cheering them on. Early in the 12th round, Barrera seemed to slip and Morales went after him but he righted himself and did not go down.
Barrera seemed to tire in the final round, but the two were still swinging wildly as the bell sounded to end the fight.
Morales won the first fight between the two by split decision in 2000, a classic in which they traded more than 1,500 punches between them and the result was still in doubt in the final round. That fight was fought at 122 pounds, and when they met two years later they fought at 126 pounds.
Barrera came back to win the second fight on a unanimous decision, turning from brawler to boxer and frustrating Morales in the late rounds.
On the undercard, Ivan Calderon kept his 105-pound title with a win over Carlos Fajardo.