Thanks to his talent, style, affable personality, and the work of ace publicist Bernie Bahrmasel, junior bantamweight Daniel “Chucky” Barrera gets a lot more attention than your typical prospect with six pro fights, and that’s a good thing for the Eastvale, California native. 

What may not be as pleasant is the reality that the 22-year-old now enters every contest with a target on his back. Because if an opponent beats “Chucky,” that will take his own career to a new level of notoriety.

Bad news? Not for Barrera, who actually likes being in that role.

“It makes me work a lot harder and it makes me not want to get beat,” he said. “I don’t like losing, in general, and I’m very competitive. But yeah, it’s a good chip on the shoulder for a fighter because it makes you work whenever nobody’s around and you don’t want to do your runs or do the extra rounds or whatever. That’s where that comes into play and makes you want to work harder because you have to put in the extra rounds so that you work too hard to lose.”

Barrera laughs when I ask him if he’s the type to get mad if he loses in anything, and that laugh gave me the answer. He hasn’t gotten to the point where he’s throwing video game controllers across the room, but he doesn’t accept losing, especially in the ring, where he’s posted a 5-0-1 record since turning pro in the summer of 2022. Outside of the draw with Isaac Anguiano, it’s been smooth sailing, so I wonder aloud whether he feels like he’s been tested by the sport or an opponent yet.

“I’m always confident, but during the week of the fight, especially the day before the fight, after the weigh-ins, I’m in my room resting up and watching video and I’m always thinking of what can happen. You can get caught with a dumb shot and you can hit the canvas. So I always play different scenarios in my head just in case when it does happen, I’m not shocked. And I would say Gilberto Mendoza, he was like 19-15-4, and I was like, ‘Okay, he’s been there with [Andrew] Moloney, he’s been in there with Angel Acosta, so he’s been there with some guys that can punch. So I definitely was confident, but I was like, ‘This guy’s going to give me a good run, but as long as I stick to my game plan, it can be an easier fight.’ And I stuck to my game plan and it felt fairly easy. Nothing’s easy, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.”

Last summer, Barrera shut Mendoza out over six rounds, and in his most recent bout in February, he knocked out Jonathan Almacen. Can’t get more perfect than that, but even after his two-round finish of Almacen, he was back to the lab with coach Al Franco to see what he did wrong.

“There’s always mistakes,” said Barrera. “I started off well, and I thought I was patient during the fight as soon as the first bell rang, but I can say that I rushed things a little bit only because it got switched from a six-rounder to a four-rounder. I knew I had no time left, so in the first 10 seconds of the fight, I threw a right hand right away, when I should have waited and established my jab. But after I did that, I calmed down and [in the] second round I was using my jab a lot more and that’s when I caught him.”

It’s those little details that separate those who make it to the top from those who don’t. Barrera is on the right track, he knows the big fights and big money aren’t coming overnight, and he’s willing to pay his dues on his way to those milestones. Does this make him the most mature 22-year-old in boxing?

“I would believe so,” he deadpans, then pauses before continuing. “No, I’m just kidding.”

Top 10 at least, then? 

“Yeah, maybe Top 10.”

Barrera laughs, and while it may not be easy, he’s having fun in a hard business.

“It’s always fun to be in this business,” he said. “As strict as I have to be and as dedicated as I have to be, being around the gym is fun to me. In the beginning, it was hard transitioning from amateur to being a pro because obviously more sacrifices have to come with it. But now that I’m fighting consistently and I’m getting more of a buzz with my name and who I am as a fighter, it makes everything so much more fun.” 

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