By Chris Robinson
Given a recent health scare that saw him in the hospital for twenty-one days, I have spoken less and less with renown boxing historian and HBO Sports contributor Bert Sugar over the past few months.
Slowly but surely feeling better by the day, I was able to converse with Sugar on Friday night as he was in the mood to do what he does best; talk boxing.
It was December of 2010 when Sugar and I took a look at the career of Erik ‘El Terrible’ Morales while also musing on his comeback to the sport following his brief retirement after his August 2007 loss to Chicago’s David Diaz.
2011 would end up being memorable for Morales as he engaged in a give and take war with Marcos Maidana last April in losing a majority decision while rebounding to capture the vacant WBC junior welterweight championship five months later with his 10th round TKO over Pablo Cesar Cano in Las Vegas.
Morales makes another ring appearance this weekend when he faces off with Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas in an HBO attraction that is sure to entertain.
The 35-year old Morales is figures to be in a bit of an uphill battle but regardless of what happens on Saturday night, Sugar will always have fond memories of him.
“I consider Morales one of the greats,” stated Sugar. “My memories I remember best were his fights with [Marco Antonio] Barrera. He always looked like one of those Myan War gods to me, with that long face, that long nose. But he was and is a warrior to me.”
I asked Sugar if he had the pleasure of attending any of Morales’ three duels with Barrera in Las Vegas and his response was sharp.
“All three,” Sugar would tell me. “The one thing I remember is that it doesn’t matter what part of Mexico you’re from, they come to cheer for their area. On the Mexican flag, for Morales they would have Tijuana and for Barrera they’d have Mexico City written on the flag in the white portion. It was electric. It was one of the great Mexican vs. Mexican fights of all time.”
Admiration aside, Sugar admits that he had concern for Morales when he heard of him accepting the challenge of Argentina’s rugged Maidana.
“I thought it was a mistake, if you want honesty,” Sugar explained. “He had been out of the ring, he was picking a tough son-of-a-b*tch, and it just didn’t make sense. And even though his eye was swollen in the first round, he put on a championship performance.”
While there’s nothing wrong with commending Morales for his winning a fourth title in as many weight classes, it’s worth noting that the trinket he picked up in the Cano drubbing was vacant because the WBC blatantly stripped its champion at the time, Timothy Bradley.
Trying to get Bert’s take on the matter appeared to set off a bit of a firestorm.
"First of all, I’m not a big fan of the group I first called ‘The alphabet soups’. What happens is that they have all these interim champions. What did that champion do? Had to go to the bathroom during the rounds? Go to the bathroom and we’ll have an interim champion fighting,” Sugar quipped.
Morales added some bemusement to the festivities of Friday’s weigh-in when he came in two pounds over the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds, an act that resulted in the Tijuana fighter being stripped of his title.
Usually such an act will draw ire from the boxing world but Morales is so beloved that he seemed to get a pass from many. Giving his opinion, Sugar had no harsh words for Morales and instead took some more digs at the World Boxing Council.
“These people don’t even wait until the fight,” Sugar said of the WBC. “They can strip you at a weigh-in. What are they doing out there? No wonder boxing is having a tough time. Nobody understands what these idiots are doing. They just make up the god damn rules as they go.”
Taunts and criticisms aside, we still have what figures to be a barnburner of a fight on our hands tomorrow. Sugar is unsure of how everything will play out but reminded me that Morales is not short on confidence heading in.
“It depends how much he has left on his meter. He wouldn’t have taken this fight if he didn’t think he could win," Sugar pointed out.
Chris Robinson can be reached at [email protected] and www.Twitter.com/CRHarmony