by Cliff Rold
He’s been so good to so many fight fans, so much fun to watch, that a sin is easily forgiven. Erik Morales showed up for the weigh-in on Friday, missed the Jr. Welterweight limit of 140 lbs., and seemingly shrugged it off.
He lost what was a paper WBC title on the scales. Danny Garcia can still win it. If we get another ‘Morales fight,’ win or lose, is anyone really going to care about the title situation?
It’s not to excuse blowing weight. As a professional, Morales had obligations. It is to say the good still so far outweighs the bad that it’s not worth a breathless critique.
It happened. The weight, given that Morales’s prime was at least a decade ago between ten and eighteen pounds lower, won’t make the difference.
Let’s go to the report card.
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Featherweight (1997-2000, 9 Defenses); WBO Jr. Featherweight (2000); WBC Featherweight (2001-02, 1 Defense; 02-04, 3 Defenses); WBC Jr. Lightweight (2004, 1 Defense); IBF Jr. Lightweight (2004); WBC Jr. Welterweight (2011-12)
Weight: 142 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 142 lbs.
Hails from: Tijuana, Mexico
Record: 52-7, 36 KO, 2 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #7 at Jr. Welterweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 19-3, 12 KO (19-4, 12 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 12 (Hector Acero Sanchez, Daniel Zaragoza, Jose Luis Bueno, Wayne McCullough, Marco Antonio Barrera, Kevin Kelley, Guty Espadas Jr., In Jin Chi, Paulie Ayala, Jesus Chavez, Carlos Hernandez, Manny Pacquiao)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 3 (Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao, David Diaz)
Title/Previous Titles: 1st Title Opportunity
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 141.25 lbs.
Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Record: 22-0, 14 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #9 at Jr. Welterweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Nate Campbell, Kendall Holt)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Morales B; Garcia B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Morales B; Garcia B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Morales C; Garcia B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Morales A+; Garcia B+
When this fight was signed, the first thought through this scribe’s mind was Garcia is just the sort of young guy to kill the dream of seeing Morales-Juan Manuel Marquez before both head off to wait for a call from Canastota.
It’s not that Garcia is so fearsome. Garcia just has all the qualities to win the fight and Morales losing probably scuttles any outside chances. Garcia has shown steady growth in his wins over former titlists Campbell and Holt, boxing with them and outworking them when he needed to.
The best opponents for Morales at this stage are fighters who will stay in front and give him a chance to go to war. Garcia isn’t made that way. He’ll rumble, but he is more apt to work off the jab and try to counter. While he hasn’t seen a man with the will and outright love of violence of Morales, he has seen superior speed. Campbell was faster than this version of Morales and Holt was much more so. He should be able to see Morales’s attacks coming from the outside and react to them with time to spare.
Where Morales has advantages is in Garcia’s need to eventually be in range. Garcia is going to have to let loose at some point and he isn’t a huge puncher. If Morales could endure Maidana, he can take Garcia’s best shots, at least early. Morales still has an educated right and underrated boxing skills. He can set traps for the younger man and walk him into the right. His straight shot to the belly could also be wide open as Garcia moves in and out.
If Morales can slow Garcia down, using his youth against him, he could draw firefight moments. Morales in a firefight can still hang with most of what’s out there.
A big question could be whether Morales is really up for Garcia. He’s been to the mountain, come down, and risen there again. That Morales didn’t force himself to the proper weight might indicate some level of disregard.
For Garcia, this is everything. If he loses to Morales, years and pounds away from the best of “El Terrible,” it will be hard to recover in terms of fan perception. From Morales’s perspective, Garcia couldn’t possibly stir the fires past rivals did. Morales can lose and it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
For Morales, this is just another fight. It’s up to Garcia to make it more.
While missing weight isn’t something to hold much against a warrior like Morales, the way he looked on the scale could be telling. He hasn’t looked like he used to since rising in weight regardless. On Friday, he looked particularly soft.
Perhaps looks deceive but Garcia has enough boxer in him to take advantage of the aged Morales' slow feet and hands. He should be able to jab and step around Morales and may even be able to add enough punishment for a late stoppage. As it is, it seems barring eating a fight altering bomb, Garcia would have to stand in front of Morales and try to war all night to have a chance to lose. The pick here is Garcia by a competitive but clear decision.
Cliff’s Notes… Part of the thrill of this card is seeing one of the heirs to the Morales action throne on tap. Top ten Jr. Middleweights Carlos Molina (19-4-2, 6 KO) and James Kirkland (30-1, 27 KO) square off and Kirkland is, win or lose, the one to watch. There are few rising fighters as exciting. Molina is crafty and has developed a real solid all around game. Too bad for him the one missing element, power, is the one he needs. Eventually, Kirkland's offensive momentum will take over (even if he gets stunned at some point) and he'll break Molina down over the long haul.
Report Card Picks 2012: 10-3
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org