By Rick Reeno
This Saturday night in Las Vegas, the theme of redemption vs. revenge is on the table. Erik Morales will come to the ring with redemption on his mind. After suffering an embarrassing defeat to Zahir Raheem last September, the Mexican warrior has been training harder than he ever has in his entire career in order to set the record straight.
Manny Pacquiao, one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world will not make Morales' job of gaining redemption easy. The Filipino icon wants revenge for his unanimous decision loss to Morales last year.
The first major fight of 2006 promises to bring down the house. The staff of BoxingScene.com comes together to voice their predictions, opinions and strategies on what promises to be an exciting fight from start to finish.
Ron Borges - I like Morales by decision. He's still too big and Pacquiao is still too one-punch, left hand happy.
Tim Smith - It will be another close fight, and Morales will win another close decision. Morales 12 Round Decision.
Dave Wilcox - Tough call, but I'm going with Morales here. Although Raheem took some of his luster away, I feel Morales' style is a difficult one for the wild Pacquiao to figure out. "El Terrible" is too skilled for the brawling Pac-Man.
Pac-Man will have plenty of moments, but in the end I'll take Erik Morales by Split Decision.
Matthew Hurley - I think the old adage "styles make fights" applies here. Both men are easily drawn into a slugfest because of their intense pride, but Morales proved in the last fight that he can control Pacquiao's kamikaze-like attacks with his jab. I don't think the loss to Zahir Raheem will negatively affect "El Terrible" at all. In fact I think his motivation for this fight is at it's highest level. I see another close, pitched battle with Erik Morales again coming out on top.
Erik Morales UD Manny Pacquiao
Johnny Ortiz - Their previous encounter was a great fight from start to finish; El Terrible came out on top scoring a unanimous twelve round decision over the game, aggressive competitor from the Philippines. I picked Erik to win the first time out; I feel no reason to change my opinion regarding the rematch.
My picking Morales was based on two things, I believed he was the bigger and smarter fighter, I still harbor the same feelings going into their rematch. I have nothing but respect for the Pac Man, he not only comes to fight, but brings the kind of excitement and intensity that fight fans crave. My problem with Manny is that he reminds me of a better schooled Ricardo Mayorga in that they both rely too heavily on the big punch, whenever they take a good shot they throw caution to the winds by unleashing a barrage of punches without thinking, thus leaving them vulnerable to a smart, deadly counter puncher such as Erik Morales.
Dr. Peter Edwards - I don't Morales is the same fighter that he was in the first battle with Pacquiao. I see a close pitched battle with Pacquiao winning a tight decision.
Mike Indri - First instinct says Pacquiao; but the more I think into it I can't go against the skill, will and boxing mind of Morales.
Too much is being made of the gloves, and the Raheem fight. Freddie Roach will lay out the plan, but Pacquiao is not disciplined enough to follow it and will easily be led back into another very exciting and action filled brawl - which he will lose.
Morales over Pacquiao via unanimous decision (or late round TKO).
Ja Lang G. Greene - Pacquiao has demonstrated the tenacity and hunger that any fan can appreciate, but Morales, the bigger fighter, will establish control and force the action. The scores will be close due to Pac-man's competitiveness, but it will be a clear win for Morales.
Morales by close UD12
Mark Workman - While some are thinking that Erik Morales is on the decline because of his embarrassing loss to Zahir Raheem, I'm not one of them. But after 51 fights, I do wonder if his desire to win is beginning to wane.
Manny Pacquiao is idolized by millions in his home country of the Philippines, and he carries the heavy weight of national pride and revenge upon his shoulders. And I'm sure he realizes that a lucrative rubber match will be history if he loses again to Morales on Saturday. Pacquiao has been looking stronger, sharper and faster than ever before in this training camp. If Pacquiao can box more, keep moving, take his fight to the inside and work Morales' body and throw his right hand a lot more, I think he can beat Morales this time.
I'm going with the Pac Man by unanimous decision.
Sammy Rozenberg - Morales all the way. I think Manny is going to do better in the fight, but the Erik will once again use his size to slow Manny down and nullify his left hand.
Joe Harrison - Morales didn't look so good when he lost to Raheem last September, but he shouldn't have the same problem when he faces Pacquiao again. It is doubtful that Pacquiao will have any new tricks for Morales. Plus, Pacquiao doesn't appear to be as strong in the super featherweight division as he was in the lighter weight divisions. He may have been better off taking a rematch against Juan Manuel Marquez instead of Morales. The results shouldn't be any different than their first fight.
Morales over Pacquiao by unanimous decision
Andy Rivera - Last time out it was a war, I don't expect anything different. Although I think a little luster is missing due to Morales losing to Raheem, this is still a match people want to see.
If Pacquiao has learned how to throw more than just a left hand, then I give him a good chance to even the score. Morales on the other hand has to come in at tip top condition, not out of shape like we saw in his bout with Raheem.
I think Morales will show that he still has the desire to be on top and will win another war. Pacquiao is a true 122 pounder and 130 might be too much for him to hurt Morales, who has one of best chins in the business. It's to late in Pac man's career to teach him new tricks, he always has and always will be a puncher first.
Morales by unanimous decision in another slugfest. Size will be the difference.
Matthew Salderson - Erik Morales is a fighter who won’t be bullied. That he could not only stand up to Manny Pacquiao’s fire, but also push the one track Filipino back with some inspired right hands and left uppercuts, was a considerable surprise last year – to Pacquiao more than anyone.
Pacquiao may have grown to the super featherweight division now, and has the benefit of actually winning his last fight, but this could ensure that the bigger ‘El Terrible’ doesn’t get complacent. Morales needs all of his fitness and concentration to deal with the high octane attacking of Manny, and he’s expected to have it.
The first fight was considered a tight and close one, 7-5 to Erik being agreed upon by the judges and most of the media. Pac enthusiasts observed that had he not been cut, he could’ve won another round and managed the draw. But looking at the rhythms and sequences of that fight, Morales always seemed in control of a competitive and exciting match.
Had he not messed about in the final round, Erik would probably have been an 8-4 winner. Meaning that barring any accidents, seven rounds to five might be the difference between the great bigger man and the superb smaller one.
Evan Korn - The rematch will be more of the same, as Pac-Man will continue to retreat from Morales' hellacious two-fisted onslaught. Manny will scrape out some rounds on sheer will alone, but when the dust settles, Morales will pull out another Unanimous Decision.
Tom Donelson - This is one of those fights that could go either direction. Morales won the last fight by decision, but the key moment was the headbutt that opened a cut over Pacquiao eye. Morales' strength is the fact that he is the bigger man with the bigger punch. Pacquiao has the quicker hands but at 130 pounds, his power is not what it was at lower weights.
Pacquiao will attack, attack, attack. This is his style. Morales has shown boxing skills but when hit, he will sit back and trade. In his last fight at 135, Raheem out boxed Morales but in this fight, Pacquiao won't box but will be right in front of Morales.
Morales has been a lot of wars and there will be that one fight in which those wars will have their effect. Was Raheem defeat a harbinger of the effect of those wars or simply a bad match up for Morales? Morales looked slow and outclassed. Both fighters are tough hombres, but Morales advantage is his jab and size. Pacquiao must overwhelm Morales with his hand speed. His two fights with Morales and Marquez showed that Pacquiao could be baffled by movement. Pacquiao's biggest hope is to force Morales into a pitch battle and hope that his hand speed can save the day.
On paper, Morales has the edge but somehow, I just feel that Pac man will surprise Morales. Pacman by decision.
Don Colgan - Morales by a late 11th round TKO. He is too strong and no "secret weapon" is going to turn Pacquiao into a winner in the return tilt. Morales may be troubled over the first six rounds due to Pacquiao's hand speed and general work rate yet Morales' body attack will weaken his foe and Paquiao will visit the canvas in round 10 and twice in round 11 before the stoppage.
Larry Tornambe - I still think Morales is near the top of his game. The Raheem bout was just one of those nights against a certain style. Morales will defeat Pacquiao in another thriller, by decision.
Carlos Irusta - Pacquiao looks to fight all the night, but he receives a lot of punishment for his effort. Erik has more experience and will pull this one out.
David Sauvage - This to me is a 50-50 kind of bout. In their first fight, it seemed Morales was just able to keep Pacquiao at bay. After the loss to Raheem, I am not convinced he is quite as sharp as he was then. For some reason, it's as if Morales wasn't picked apart by a second-tier fighter. But I remember it clearly enough, and so I'm picking Pacquiao to get to Morales a lot more this time to score a unanimous, but still close, decision.
Adam Pollack - This one is tough. I predicted Morales the first time because he had a nice relaxed style and would be able to use his height and reach advantage.
However, after the brutal third fight with Barrera, and his poor performance against Raheem, I think Morales may be on the down swing. Pac man has not endured the same number of wars and I think he's going to be able to edge this one.
Rusty Rubin - The difference between Raheem and Pacquiao is like night and day. Pacquiao is a puncher who can't really box and Raheem is a boxer who can't really punch. The size advantage for Morales will be the key in this fight. Morales by a close split decision.
Ron Gallegos - Manny is truly a one trick pony. In this case, it's his left hand. Once that left is neutralized, the game is over. It will be Morales, who is more of a complete fighter, prevailing in this bout.
However, before the Pac man is dismissed entirely, there are two ingredients that weigh heavily in his favor. First, his cornerman, Freddie Roach is unequaled in the sport, and secondly, Pacquiao has a heart as big as the island from whence he came. These two factors instill the ingredients for a great fight.
Eric is a fierce, prideful competitor. I look for a Morales victory by stoppage in the 7th. This will go down in the books as one of the great ones of 2006.
James Blears - Erik wisely used his height and reach advantage in the first fight, plus his ability to box. But it must be remembered how hampered Manny was by that really awful jagged cut from the fifth round onwards, and he still managed to stagger Erik in the final round, when Erik foolishly turned southpaw! Much depends on whether Freddie Roach has convinced Manny to use his right hand and he will indeed do so in the heat of battle.
Erik has never been stopped, but is a slow starter. A controlled early blitz is an option the Manny camp might well be considering, with a fall back strategy.
Erik is the boxer and Manny is the fighter. It’s Manny’s job to draw Erik into an explosive hand to hand close range combat exchange. While Erik will be trying to keep it at range. However, if/once Erik is stung, he’ll start swinging and dishing out retaliation, because he has the intense pride of a great champion. It’s then when the fireworks could well explode and one of them will go down.
Erik is as tough as nails, but even though he’s only 29 years old, he’s had a long, grueling and glorious career…. and he looks tired.
The distracting road show, which so interfered with Manny’s training last time, has been curtailed. He’s not been allowed to be lazy and to cram all his preparation into too short a time span, so he’s better conditioned and more thoroughly prepared. He and Freddie Roach have learned from those previous mistakes.
I have a feeling we’re going to see a thunderous spectacular and Manny will win by knockout or stoppage in the middle to late rounds.
Brent Matteo Alderson - I like Morales by close decision. I just think he’s too big for Manny, but feel that this fight will be more competitive than the first one because I really think that the cuts hindered Pacquiao’s offensive production. You can throw out Erik’s performance against Raheem because Zahir is a totally different fighter and Erik didn’t train properly for that fight, he just trained to make weight - not to sharpen his skills. Trust me I know, because I was in Tijuana in June with my BoxingScene.com colleague, Paul Gallegos, drinking beers and eating fish tacos with Erik and he was anything but svelte.
David P. Greisman - With all the factors to consider, this fight can be hard to predict with full confidence. Erik Morales beat Manny Pacquiao clearly in their first meeting, but the scorecards still only read 115-113, and had Morales not decided to turn southpaw in the twelfth round, they may have been 116-112 instead. The question is, can Manny Pacquiao be two rounds better than he was last time?
Team Pacquiao says that they won't make the same mistakes, that they won't underestimate Morales just because he, once again, is coming off of a loss, this time to Zahir Raheem, when last time it was to Marco Antonio Barrera. It concerns me that they could have lent such creedence to a Barrera loss, considering the toe-to-toe nature, the closeness of that fantastic trilogy. But they did, and from a report I read, they might be doing it again.
One article said that Pacquiao's handlers want him to incorporate the same kind of boxing and movement that Raheem used to beat Morales. This could just be misdirection, as I don't see Pacquiao trying that, nor would I see it working. Pacquiao is aggression and speed, not smoothness nor sweetness. What he needs to improve on is a variety in his attacks, and an ability to defend and counter, as opposed to a simple retreat.
As for Morales, as bad as he was against Raheem, he will likely be back at the top of his game. He was not in shape for Raheem, looking much wider than we were used to seeing. He has a new trainer, but at this point in his career, it's less about major technical improvements than it is about motivation and discipline, slight tweaks and preparation.
Morales will be ready, and so, too, will Pacquiao, and we wouldn't be hyping this fight up or purchasing the pay-per-view otherwise.
Forget the controversy from last fight involving the gloves, the cut, the distractions. This is about what is now, and that is two of the three best junior lightweights, warriors that will give their all, take the pain and fight to the finish.
I predicted, wrongly I might add, a decision win for Pacquiao last year. This year, I can see scorecards reading 116-112 Morales, 115-113 Pacquiao and 115-113, for the winner by split decision, Erik Morales.
Rick Reeno - Too many people are looking at the Raheem fight as their reasoning for Pacquiao winning the return bout with Morales. Morales is coming to prove a point in this fight, that he is not washed up by any means possible. I think Pacquiao is the best opponent to prove this point, because he is so much physically bigger than his Filipino rival.
There have been too many issues on the end of Pacquiao in terms of his "secret weapons", the gloves, the cuts and half a dozen other reasons on why he will win. The Pacquiao camp is pumping out a full media blitz on different ways Manny will look to even the score with Morales.
A big factor that many scribes have not brought up is the fact that Morales will be fighting for the first time in his career without his father in his corner. Morales fired his father/trainer Jose, following the loss to Zahir Raheem in September. After the split, Morales' father became very critical of his son's training habits in the Mexican press, Morales is not bothering to enagage in a public battle with his father.
In December, Morales hired Jose Luis Lopez, the father of former world champion Jose Luis "Maestrito" Lopez. From what insiders within the Morales camp reported, Lopez corrected many of Morales' mistakes in training and fighting.
Morales by unanimous decision.