Boxing


Erik Morales deserved to win against Marcos Maidana and would do even better in a rematch!

by Geoffrey Ciani - When the fight between Erik Morales and Marcos Maidana was first announced few observers (myself included) gave “El Terrible” much of a chance and not without good reason. After all, since making his comeback last year Morales hardly resembled the “El Terrible” of old. He was noticeably slower, softer, and fighting far north of his best weight in his prime years. That he lost five of his last six prior to retirement was another reminder that his best days were surely behind him. That his three comeback wins were against less than stellar competition led many to believe this fight would be a massacre, especially given Maidana’s superb effort against rising star Amir Khan late last year. Unfortunately for Maidana, Morales had no intentions of lying down. On the contrary, the old Mexican warrior came to fight and came to win!

But things couldn’t have started any worse for Morales. He looked slow and stiff at the onset when his younger stronger foe came out attacking with ill intent. An awkward uppercut from Maidana in round one grazed the Mexican’s eye from a funny angle. It was one of those freakish shots which had unfortunate results, and Morales’ eye had swollen completely shut by the end of the first. In round two, Maidana was smiling, probably thinking the old warrior was on his last legs. He continued pressing his attack, battering “El Terrible” up against the ropes. Then it happened. As we had seen so many times before, Morales showed what he was made of on the inside as he fired back a sharp right hand which caught Maidana’s attention. From this point forward we had a fight on our hands!

Over the course of the next several rounds, Morales began putting on a boxing clinic which left his younger foe looking confused and bamboozled. Whenever Maidana attacked or landed something noteworthy, Morales would fire back with an intense flurry of his own. Morales was regularly getting the best of the exchanges, often making Maidana miss and miss badly. At times Morales even resembled Pernell Whitaker as he dodged, ducked, and otherwise avoided incoming fire in a fine display of defensive prowess. Maidana was still being aggressive but he was hardly being effective as “El Terrible” outclassed and outmaneuvered Maidana with just one working eye.

At times Maiadana would again pin Morales up against the ropes where he seemed to be doing damage. Once trapped, Morales dug deep and began firing back with textbook combinations that were reminiscent of the type of flurries he unleashed against longtime rival Marco Antonio Barrera more than ten years earlier. Morales even managed to seriously hurt Maidana several times using some extremely well timed counters. That former HBO translator Ray Torres just happening to fill in on this particular night only intensified the drama. Like we were in a time portal to some era twelve years gone where “El Terrible” was firmly established near the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.

Morales did get caught with a big shot near the end of a tenth while he was still controlling. Maidana rebounded in the championship rounds, but it already seemed like Morales had done enough to secure a victory in the eyes of many. Unfortunately for Morales, the judges did not see things as such, and they awarded Maidana a majority decision victory with final scores reading 114-114, and 116-112 for Maidana two times. For my part, I scored the bout 116-112 for Morales and thought he was clearly in control for the majority of the rounds. I am, however, apparently in the minority opinion.

This fight was close enough, competitive enough, dramatic enough, and entertaining enough that it clearly warrants a rematch. This begs the question of who would win the return bout.

Many seem to feel that Maidana took Morales lightly. People from this train of thought tend to believe that Maidana just assumed he would steamroll “El Terrible.” As such, he was vulnerable and Morales rose to the occasion fighting his absolute best. This made the fight closer than it ought have been, but in the rematch Maidana trains harder, takes Morales more seriously, and adjusts accordingly.

This assumes, however, that Maidana has room for improvement and that Morales was at his peak last time out. These assumptions are false. In fact the contrary is true. We already saw the best of Maidana, whereas Morales is the one with tremendous room for improvement. Maidana was the same old Maidana. He is not a technically gifted fighter. Instead he relies on toughness, determination, and power. He attacks often, always looking for openings to land big shots that change the course of a fight. As a result he gets hit a lot. He has a decent punch volume. He is also somewhat crafty (or some might say “dirty”), always awkward, and mentally tough. We saw all of this. Maidana’s approach to this fight was no different to his approach when fighting Amir Khan, Victor Ortiz, or Andriy Kotelnik. He only knows how to fight one way. There is effectively just one dimension to his game.

Morales, on the other hand, is a versatile master of the sport. His ring IQ is much higher than that of Maidana. Throughout their first contest, Morales clearly displayed his superior technique. He has far more dimensions to his game and is much better at making adjustments and gauging weaknesses in his opponent’s style. With twelve rounds under his belt, Morales will learn from this effort and improve on it. He has gotten better in each of the four fights since his return, and there is no reason to believe that this trend should not continue. Quite the opposite, Morales appears to be getting faster, stronger, and fitter with each passing match. Give him the benefit of two healthy eyes, and Maidana is the one who would have his work cut out for him.

Whether or not this rematch actually happens remains to be seen. Morales won the heart of the fans with a heroic turn-back-the-clock type of performance that many observers believe he did enough to win. Should the rematch happen, conditions strongly favor Morales. Should Morales not land the rematch then perhaps a long overdue showdown with fellow Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez might be in order. After all, Marquez’s objection to this fight was that Morales was “old” and “shot”, but with his recent effort against Maidana it is clear this is untrue. If Morales does get the rematch he deserves and desires, expect him to perform even better.

***

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Article posted on 16.04.2011



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