Boxing


Losing Perspective: How Morales has been mistreated by the 'Pacman' Express

erik morales24.12.08 - By Ted Spoon, www.tedspoon.co.uk - While the heavyweight division is still poorly with leprosy there remains a healthy roster of quality fighters for us to enjoy, and numero uno has gone onto gate crash the premier poundage of 135 and pummel the 'Golden Boy'.

With his faultless demolitions of David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya, Philipino fireball, Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao has once again done his nickname justice; something he has failed to do since chewing up Barrera 5 years ago. Following the destructive moves up in weight, Pacquiao now commands a wealth of pulling power as boxing buzzes around him, but as easily as Manny continues to impress he has dimmed the lasting image of his previous conqueror, the now retired, Erik ’El Terrible’ Morales.

Morales is far from forgotten; his first fight with Barrera shall for ever remain a byword for intensity, but in successfully running an old horse ragged, Pacquiao has overlapped the memory of a modern legend..

It had to come…

The Mexican led one of the most war-laden careers in modern boxing history; even when dominant he was a connoisseur of goading opponents to throw down and prove a point in courage. Morales needed that. If he did not lower his standard of boxing, so that it would mesh with his lesser victims, starting a swing-a-thon, there was no point in performing in front of the public.

When HBO commentator, Larry Merchant asked Morales why he acted so recklessly against Pacquaio in the last round of their first fight he replied; “Did you like it?”.

Erik Morales, Manny Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez created their own ‘fabulous 4’ during an era of great, lower-weight fights, but Manny’s obtained moniker of the ‘Mexi-cutioner’ isn‘t completely apt. Pacquiao may thank his agreeable, pay-per-view style for twice denying Marquez victory in two close fights and being awarded undeservingly lop-sided scores against Barrera in their rematch.

Pacquiao did well in burying Morales, but the man from Tijuana, who‘d contested in multiple damaging fights, already had one foot in the grave.

Boxing eventually takes the fizzle out of fighters, leaving them no longer ‘Smokin’ or ‘Marvellous’, and as the mind starts to recognize the slowing body it losses faith. Erik was not left for dead when Pacquiao dispatched of him, but mentally, he knew ‘it’ was not there anymore.

When ‘it’ was there, Erik Morales was a courageous and versatile fighter with an ‘I fight for fun’ attitude, a feature masked by his nonchalant conduct. When the bell rang, the hands were up high, and he bounced about like the incomparable Mini-Mexican, Ricardo Lopez.

Morales was not as tight or destructive as Lopez, but that was part of the charm as he smoothly transitioned from technical brilliance to unconcerned toe-to-toe slugging, satisfying all tastes.

The timing of Erik Morales was not too good. On top of having to share centre stage with rival Mexican-ace, and loyal nemesis, Marco Antonio Barrera, he was squashed underneath the main event personalities of Oscar De la Hoya and Roy Jones Jr. Morales was one of the very best pound-4-pound fighters of his era, but even still, he fell short of attaining the praise that Barrera got after beating Hamed or that Pacquiao is receiving at the moment.

During the last 9 years of Manny’s fighting life he has lost just once, and that was to Erik Morales in 2005.

It was something of a cross roads fight for the combatants; Morales was coming off his majority decision loss to Barrera and Pacquiao was coming off his draw against Marquez. Off the basis that Pacquiao had dismantled Barrera two years prior he was made the favourite, but after twelve torrid rounds, Morales’ arms were raised.

Popular opinion said that Pacquiao should have lost when Marquez came off the canvas to administer a counter-punching clinic, but against Morales, Manny was out done tactically and physically. There were times in the fight were he got beat up as Erik stood his ground and dealt out the right hooks and cross’ that were his trademark.

Morales’ self-assured control over the battle led for his south-paw stupidity in the last round to give Pacquiao the angles his punches needed. Fighting totally unnaturally, Morales threw himself off-balance with right hooks as he fearlessly played into Manny’s type of fight. ‘El Terrible’ had this self-afflicted duty to entertain the crowd as well as win the fight as if he felt that one of the three judges was the crowd.

The iron-chinned Morales gave Pacquiao all the target he needed, but Manny found himself unable to stop his tormentor.

Four consecutive defeats would then steer Erik into retirement at only 30, but Morales had been ever so slowly rusting over the years. There was the super-featherweight Morales; brilliant but blunted, and then there was the argument that Morales had never been the same after his first epic against Barrera.

Whether there is any truth in the last sentiment, certainly it can’t be argued that the higher in weight Morales went, the less justice it did to his ability. While owner of a fairly lanky frame for a 122lb’der, Morales’ punishing punch was diluted to just respectable and his speed wilted as he climbed into the new divisions.

The manner in which Erik tamed the respectable challenges of Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez at super featherweight was impressive, but that of a weakened force who now relied more on his economical ring savvy to funnel decisions his way. Morales always found a way to turn it on for his legions, but he degraded from an attacking boxer to, compratively, an almost subdued tactician.

Nobody made it a point to applaud Morales on his success at the new weight like the public did when Bernard Hopkins racked up the middleweight defences, but as the pair demonstrated, age and ring age are two different things.

The problem lay in that Morales was a weapon of war. Virtually all of his fights were high-tempo and a number of them were particularly demanding. Erik did not simmer into his boxing like Barrera or Marquez nor did he have the early blow-outs of Pacquiao; his head was available through the gap and his boxing was always prone to slip into brawling, which despite it’s appeal to both him and the crowd, did not compliment his attributes.

Morales was a paramount stand up boxer, a fighter who worked best whilst on the move. The terming ‘stand up boxer’ is as stiff as his jab was; Morales was far more than a ’jabber’.

Erik brilliantly excavated angles out of the opponents defences; the right uppercut that floored Chavez is a supreme example of this. The right cross was Morales’ bread n’ butter and when he started cocking it back and feinting its delivery the opponent never knew which side would be buttered until it was too late.

At Super Bantamweight, Morales had all the tools in their sharpest state. He was quick off the mark, technically sound, stylistically confusing and near impossible to discourage. Historically, there isn’t another at 122lbs who would of stood as good a chance of defeating the great Wilfredo Gomez as Erik with his blend of toughness and movement.

Gomez’s face was the same grade of tender as Jose Napoles’ and Morales’ style of boxing could send the boat of return out further than Lupe Pintor was capable of pushing it. Barrera and Pacquiao operated at Gomez’s range, which would prove hazardous in the trade offs, but Morales had the adaptability to put the hurt on at the right times and then ride the big waves.

Speculation is not fact though and glancing back, Barrera, just like Pacquiao, is 2-1 over Morales in their trilogy, and while it was very close it does not look good on the record books.

Morales actually got the better of Barrera in the second fight by a bigger margin than Barrera ever did of Morales, but nobody kicked up a fuss about that fight because some viewed it as poetic justice in relation to the first bout, and secondly because it was such an anti-climax to the original.

Morales was unlucky with the politics; a close loss and return victory to the man who vanquished 'The Prince' would of made a better script, but as it was, Morales was left to pick on fringe contenders as ‘Pacman’ ate up Barrera.

Technically, Morales likely won more rounds against Barrera than vice versa (a draw for the third fight was accurate), but where he really trumps his ‘Baby-faced Assasin’ is in his victories over the two men who beat him.

So what’s missing?

There is so much good to say about Erik Morales and yet somehow, he was not as prestigious in the boxing world as he should of been. Here is a guy who is a lock for the hall of fame, a man who was one half of the most furious fight you’ll ever see and his legacy is left haunted by a lack of recognition.

How can a boxer never rate as the #1 P4P fighter in the world, lose out against his most revered opponents and nonetheless find a way to be the best of the bunch? When Morales fought he created an unequalled spectacle of the appeal of boxing. There was no big punch, big mouth or any of the flash that comes with the money machines, but there was desire, intrigue and excitement at every stage of his journey.

Manny Pacquiao, a fighter that does not always burn red hot, may cool a little with his ambitious weight-hopping, and if he does, where will he stand? The reputations of modern fighters are ripped down quicker than they are built-up and Pacquiao is seriously testing the waters.

Manny has been somewhat lucky with his career, Erik was not so fortunate. The question is did Pacquiao beat Morales anymore than Morales beat himself? As Pac-mania towers above boxing, it’s ironic that the fighter whose reputation he used as a launch-pad is the only one who had the whopping of him.

Visit the writer’s site at www.tedspoon.co.uk

Article posted on 24.12.2008



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