MEXICAN boxing legend Marco Antonio Barrera made an impromptu return to the ring to spar with local boxers during his visit to Kevin Maree’s Stirk House gym in Gisburn.
Barrera, who once famously ended Naseem Hamed’s unbeaten record and twice defeated Erik Morales, was at Stirk House as part of a UK dinner tour and enjoyed his visit so much that he agreed to do eight rounds of sparring.
Jeff Thomas, who trains with Maree in Gisburn, took on the 37-year-old for two rounds – as did Scott Quigg, Anthony Crolla and Scott Cardle, who work with trainer Joe Gallagher in Bolton but were visiting for the evening.
For light middleweight Thomas it was the chance of a lifetime to spar with his boxing idol, who was joined by his father, brother and two children on his visit to Stirk House.
Barrera also spent time talking to fellow Maree fighter Kenny Anderson, the super middleweight who will challenge George Groves for the British title at Wembley Arena on March 16.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Maree said. “He came into the gym and did eight rounds with the lads.
“He’s a 37-year-old on holiday, he’s come in to do a speaking night but he put his gloves on, got in the ring and started sparring with them.
“To be honest I felt bad that he’d done a couple and then another wanted a go, then another one, then another one and he wouldn’t say no! It was brilliant.”
Barrera has not fought for 13 months but is yet to officially retire.
“His class is just effortless even now,” said Thomas, who has a British eliminator against Sam Webb at Wembley next week.
“You could see that if he wanted to turn it on he could do at any second.
“When I was growing up Barrera was always my favourite boxer and I never ever thought I’d share a ring with him.
“To do that, it’s the equivalent of a big Manchester United fan having a game of football with Eric Cantona. It was absolutely amazing.
“It’s something I’ll remember as long as I live.”