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25 OCTOBER 2014

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Erik Morales: Retrospective Of A Legend




By Michael Soltesz: A Mexican fighter in the sport of boxing is almost a rite of passage in that country. This tradition is exemplified by young men who yearn for a chance to get in the ring. Whether it is for personal glory or a chance to make a better living, they personify a Mexican prizefighter. Toughness and determination like steel, something that will not bend or break even in the hardest of situations. Legends such as Julio Cesar Chavez, Ruben Olivares and Salvador Sanchez are just a few of these Mexican warriors. In modern times, fighters such as Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera are tough but tended to be more technical. Their rival in this era was the bravest of them all and rarely ever fought smart because he never backed down from a fight. His name is Erik Morales.

 

Erik Morales burst onto the scene in 1997 with a stirring knockout of the legendary Daniel Zaragoza. He had some great defenses of the Super Bantamweight title such as his KO of Junior Jones in 1998. Top Rank thought highly enough of him to put some of his fights on PPV because of his drawing power. He gainedthis drawing power possibly because of his never say die attitude and giving it his all in the ring every time. Of course, the fight that made him a superstar was with Marco Antonio Barrera in February of 2000.

 

Morales’ fight with Barrera was everything that you could ever dream of in a superfight. It was two boxers pouring every ounce of their being for a chance at bragging rights and glory. Warriors trading back and forth trying to break the other’s will. Neither fighter could be broken that night. I will never forget the carnage that I saw in 12 rounds of gripping controlled violence. We all stood in awe of this masterpiece of savagery and skill. Morales may have been given what most thought was a gift decision, but both of these magnificent athletes were elevated to mythical status in the sport. It was also Morales who suffered the most and had to ultimately prove his resolve.

 

The beating that Morales took in the Barrera fight may have affected him for several years . He looked very shaky against Guty Espadas and In Jin Chi during 2001. Morales looked quite honestly like a damn near shot fighter during the time period after the first Barrera fight. When the second Barrera fight was made, This writer was scared that Erik would be beaten handily. I was happy to say that I was wrong. El Terrible did enough to win the second fight and got a bad break in my opinion. The second Barrera fight was another incredible war that may have not been as brutal, but it was arguably more exciting. The drama and intensity of the event made it a more compelling fight. It also showed the incredible heart and courage that has become synonymous when fans think of Erik Morales.

 

El Terrible was able to beat Jesus Chavez for the WBC Super Featherweight Title to become a three division champ like Chavez. Morales had a nice run in 2004 and fought a shaky Barrera for the third time. Erik showed his heart that night but he was beaten by Barrera. It was a great way to cap off the trilogy but it wasn’t Morales’ best effort. That would come against Manny Pacquiao.

 

 


Morales beating Pacquiao with his skills but also what Larry Merchant called “controlled aggression.” It was breathtaking to watch because I had never seen Morales fight such a controlled and disciplined fight against an opponent of Pacquiao’s quality. This was the high of Morales’ career because it was his last great victory.

 

Long story short, Morales had a horrible run between late 2005 and 2007, where he lost several fights in a row and retired. We all wanted him to retire and he did for a time. However, in 2010 he came back because he still had the heart to get in the ring. Erik managed to become the first Mexican fighter to ever win titles in four weight classes when he won the WBC title at 140 lbs. in 2011. A tremendous accomplishment regardless of what people think of the title’s legitimacy. It has been an incredible career, even taking into account the late losses to Danny Garcia.

 

When I think of Mexican fighters from this era, Erik Morales will always be the first to come to mind. His ability along with his heart made believers out of so many people. Spectacular knockouts and thrilling fights were the norm with him. It has been the reason why he has been so popular for so long. I didn’t love Barrera and Marquez like I loved watching Morales. It was always the way Morales fought that made me a fan. He never backed down in his prime and fought everybody. What more could a boxing fan ask for. He is a first ballot hall of famer who could have danced with the greats. Erik Morales represented his country with grace and dignity inside and outside the ring, a real Mexican warrior. Thank you for the memories that you gave boxing fans, El Terrible.

 

June 11, 2013



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