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
“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 “Iknow what I
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
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
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
“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
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