Maidana Wins the Fight, Morales wins the crowd
By Gabriel Montoya, from Maxboxing.com (April 10, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor, DHB)
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Legends have a way of pulling out that one last great performance. Returning Mexican great Erik “El terrible” Morales did just that on Saturday night at the MGM Grand garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV as he headlined the Golden Boy Promotions “Action Heroes” HBP PPV against Argentinean power puncher Marcos Maidana. With zero vision in his right eye, out of his weight class and years past his prime, Morales showed us all why we loved watching him in his glory days and why we’d all pay to watch him again.  

"With heart, and viva mexico!" Morales said afterwards when asked how he managed to pull off the near upset.

  With heart, balls of some metal not known to man, and more guts than we’ve seen since the last time we saw Gatti/Ward 1-3, Morales fought with guile and the experience gleaned from years of wars with the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao to push the younger, stronger man to his limits and beyond.  

  “Well truth is, we were expecting an opponent like this, tough,” said Maidana. “That's why i trained well, to win. Morales is really an excellent champion and he can continue with his career, and he can be champion for a 4th time.”  

This fight was as mailigned by myself and every other writer and expert in the sport as any fight in years. Reviled as a criminal mismatch due to Morales’ wear and tear, the fact that he was never a junior welterweight and the murderous punching power of Maidana, this looked to be a public execution.  

How wrong we all were. Crow never tasted so good as Morales, his eye shut in the first round from either a punch or a head butt, went from weathering an early storm of punches and not letting his hands go to slowly dipping his fists in the water to letting it all hang out in the middle of the fight.

  The action started off as we expected; Maidana moving in for the early kill. Morales looked tentative, slipping some shots but not returning fire. Still, there was a sense that perhaps Morales was waiting for Maidana to let some steam off. As it turned out, that is wat he was doing.

  “When are you going to start doing something,” asked trainer and father Jose Morales. Erik just looked at him stone faced. As if to say “I  know what I am doing.”

  In the second, Morales began to let loose his jab and right hand but whiffed at air. He seemed to be just off the mark and the snap was gone from his punches already. Maidana kept at him, bullying him to the ropes and the corners. Morales tried countering but it was no use under the onslaught of punches. He simply was not strong enough to deal with Maidana. Morales would get in a nice right hand late but still, it was Maidana’s round.

  But in the third, Morales began to find the range and Maidana seemed to tire a little. Morales tried some uppercuts but still was getting bullied despite Maidana not snapping off his shots as before. Maidana would take the fourth as well but would spend as much time using his head to keep Morales to the ropes as he would punching. He’d take a warning for that.

  By the fifth, things began to turn for Morales. Maidana is a wide puncher. Morales, a down the pipe puncher known for his straight right hand. That proved the difference in the middle rounds as Morales began to get off with his one-two and worked his left hook up and downstairs. Maidana seemed to tire just as Morales was finding his rhythm.

  The sixth was all action as Morales began to unload on Maidana with his right hand and hard jab. Tripling it at times, Morales used that jab to keep in control. Late in the round, Maidana came on strong but Morales had an answer all the way to the bell.

  In the middle of the fight, from 7 to 10, Morales did the impossible: he changed the minds and gathered hope in all who had written him off. Before the fight, I interviewed him in L.A. and upon mentioning he was past it and that this was a dangerous fight, Morales told me “Let me know what you think after the fight.”

  Well from round 6-10, I have to say, I popped a crow in the oven and prepared an apology letter. Morales showed he was the superior fighter through and through. He made Maidana miss regularly using sublte shifts in weight, moving his head side to side, blocking, and countering. It was beautifully brutal and Morales was in his element. At times, he stunned Maidana with that right hand and flush left hooks, backing off the younger man.

  At one point, Maidana’s corner was screaming at him to get it together “You came to win!” while Morales’ corner was saying “it’s time to knock him out. You can do it whenever you want to.”

  That right there encapsulated how crazy this night was.

  The fight was on the table for Maidana and Morales in the final two rounds. Maidana came out in the eleventh looking to score a ko and be the busier man. He did not get the stoppage but he certainly got the second part done. Morales’ eye was shut completely and he guarded it well but at the same time, it limited his ability to be active. Maidana had no such problems and in the twelfth round he put the icing on the cake.

  “The fight was about even but I came out to win the last round,” said Maidana afterwards. “Well, since the 1st round I came out to win but Erik is not an easy opponent and it was difficult for me.”

  When asked what made it so difficult for him Maidana answered “The technique and the speed. He was fast.”

  In the end, Morales did not pull off the upset. The storybook ending was only a moral victory. But damnit, what a fight. As unexpected as they come. The scores were 114-114, 116-112, 116-112. I scored a draw.

  The fans? To them the score didn’t matter. They got one last look at a legend. And what a look it was.

  As for Morales?

  “First of all i want to thank all the people that came here tonight. I'm a clean fighter. I fight for the people. I fight for my people of Tijuana. I think that, perhaps he beat me, but in a very dirty manner," Morales would say afterwards.

  “No, I didn't think [I beat him], I beat him,” reiterated Morales. “I think I was better than him. I think I still have a lot of speed. I have something called dignity and heart."

  So where does he go from here?  "I think I will do what people want," said the Mexican legend.

  The people will obviously want a rematch. Crazy as it feels to say, I want one, too.

  Morales would say at the possibility, “I think i won. I think I'm better than him."

   At this, Maidana, in a classy move came back over to Morales in the ring and said “Yes the rematch is there whenever he wants. If he wants it tomorrow, I'll give it to him tomorrow."

  Surely Morales, who went to the hospital after the fight, will want to take him up on that offer. Golden Boy will, too. And the fans? The fans will win again as they did tonight.

  On the undercard, lightweight Robert Guerrero claimed the right to take on lightweight champion Juan Manuel marquez with a stellar performance against Michael Katsidis. Despite a few scary moments, this was perhaps Guerrero’s most complete performace to date as the boxer/puncher from Gilroy scored a unanimous decision over Katsidis by taking control early and boxing/punching his way to victory over twelve hard rounds. Scores were 117-108, 118-106, 118-107. Both men lost points for low blows but it did not effect the outcome one way or the other.

  Paulie Malignaggi took a unanimous decision over Joe Cotto by scores of 99-91, 99-91, 97-93 in a welterweight bout.

In a shocking upset Nobuhiro Ishida (23-6-2, 8 KOs) scores his sixth KO by dropping junior middleweight James Kirkland (27-1 with 24 KOs) three times in the first round en route to a 1:52 of the first round knockout. Ishida dropped Kirkland off a right hand to the temple followed by a left hand as Kirkland chased him into the corner. Kirkland fell face first and rose quickly only to be bullied back to the ropes and dropped in the opposite corner moments later. He would rise quickly again and engage only to be dropped a third time onto his back. Though no three knockdown rule was in effect and the fact that Kirkland was trying to get up immediately, referee Joe Cortez called the fight off immediately. Ishida was a 30:1 underdog which makes him the biggest winner in a weekend of upsets. Kirkland had been ste for a June 18 HBO headlining date that now is most likely in jeopardy as his trainer, Kenny Adams collapsed in the dressing room right after the fight, prompting him to be rushed to the hospital

You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim or tune into hear him live on Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST when he co-hosts the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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