Boxing


Erik Morales – Another Classic

22.03.05 - By Matt Hurley: It was the twelfth and final round of yet another wonderful fight in a career filled with exceptional moments and Erik Morales sneered at convention. He was ahead, he had turned southpaw at the end of rounds ten and eleven and clubbed Manny Pacquiao with right hands, but it was a dangerous move against a dangerous southpaw opponent. His corner men, his father, begged him to be cautious. The fight was in the bag. Erik nodded, walked to center ring, tapped gloves with his foe and basically stuck his chin out and said, “hit me.”

“Go ahead,” he seemed to be saying. “Hit me with everything you’ve got. You can’t beat me.” To prove it he once again switched to the unorthodox style and got cracked on the chin immediately. He didn’t care. Inexplicably, he remained in the left handed stance, taking punches and losing the round, if only to prove his toughness to everyone who doubted him – including his southpaw opponent. That’s Erik Morales. That’s why his fans adore him. That’s what confounds his critics even when they cheer his bravado. Erik Morales fights for the sport of boxing itself. He always has, he always will and until he is carried out on his shield he will refuse to fight on anyone’s terms other than his own..

Many readers at this site are aware of my admiration for Erik Morales. I’ve written about him extensively. His fights are like early Christmas presents for me. When I plunk down my money on an Erik Morales fight I know I’ll be getting my money’s worth. This fight was yet another exhilarating experience – enlivened by one too many beers of course.

And Pacquioa fans, of which I’m one, should not in anyway despair. Manny made more fans in losing than he has in winning. That’s how boxing is. Even the best are going to lose. It’s how they deal with adversity and loss and come back from it that makes them great. Erik Morales is great because he had done both. Manny is on the cusp and he has all the hallmarks of an all time great. A loss in a fight like we saw on Saturday night is really a win in the end. Hell, everyone said the same thing after Erik lost that third fight against Marco Antonio Barrera by the slimmest of margins. Let’s see how Manny reacts to this setback. Perhaps he can learn from the man who beat him.

This fight was a toss up going in but the majority of the public had jumped on the Pac-Wagon and many of his overzealous fans, including a few members of his entourage predicted an early round blow-out by the Filipino whirling dervish. The fact that he was fighting a rock jawed veteran who had never been knocked off his feet (the Barrera knockdown was a slip) did nothing to deter their misplaced enthusiasm. It was these fans that ultimately made Pacquiao an 8 to 5 betting favorite, and it was these predictions that further fueled the fire in Erik’s already seething heart. It should be noted that Erik has not gotten where he is at by being a nice guy. In fact, he can be downright mean when he feels he is being disrespected. It’s the only explanation for his defiant decision to switch to southpaw in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth rounds. It was a “f*ck you” to everybody, including his opponent.

It’s that defiance, that utter disregard for convention that seems to place Erik in fight of the year candidates over and over again. Like him or not, root for him or against him, true boxing fans and even casual fans know that when they tune into a Morales fight they are going to see something riveting. The same can now be said of Manny Pacquiao. The little dynamo with the child-like smile has emerged not only as a pound for pound entrant but a pay per view bonanza. It will be interesting to see who Pacquiao fights next and how he approaches his opponent. It could be Erik again but I think he will take a tune-up bout and then will probably get a rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez. Morales has already hinted that he may move up in weight yet again. There is the possibility of a fourth fight with Barrera but Erik, whose eyes roll whenever Marco’s name is mentioned (see Larry Merchant’s post fight interview) seems both bored and annoyed with the idea. Hopefully a rematch with Pacquiao will happen but look for Erik to pursue a fourth title.

Whatever happens, Erik’s place in the boxing Hall of Fame is secure. He really has nothing left to prove but, no doubt, he would sneer at that notion. He is a fighter – it’s all he knows. The same can be said for Pacquiao. Both men harbor an intensity that borders on the near psychotic when that bell rings. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.


Addendum

{The broadcast team of HBO has long been criticized for favoring one opponent over the other. This fight was standard for the course. Morales, a favorite because he brings in ratings and good fights, has never endeared himself to Larry Merchant or Jim Lampley. Basically because he feels he has been disrespected by them.

HBO staples such as Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Lennox Lewis, Marco Antonio Barrera and now Manny Pacquiao have all received grandiose verbal praise to their opponent’s determent.

Here are a few from Saturday’s fight.

After Manny suffered the cut from an accidental head butt that was ruled a punch by the referee. “We don’t have instant replay. We should in a case like this.” When has Larry Merchant ever said this in regards to any other head butt? In fact, Larry’s boxing heart is so filled with blood lust this was totally out of character. Now he suddenly wants to rescue a fighter?

Later he brought up the glove controversy. “Morales, the puncher, always uses Reyes gloves.” Two rounds earlier he said, “Morales has never been a big puncher.” Then he said, “Pacquiao was snookered into taking these gloves.” The lunacy of the HBO broadcast team has been discussed before but this bordered on blatant round by round revisionism. It was almost as though they were making excuses for Pacquiao for not knocking Morales out. Even Roy Jones seemed perplexed by Larry’s comments. Every punch Morales landed was shunted aside, unless it was a thunderous blow. Every single punch Pacquiao landed was, “blistering”, “extraordinary”, “scraping” all capped off with “Here comes Pacquiao!”

Draw your own conclusions.}

Article posted on 22.03.2005



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