By Chris Robinson
People are still buzzing about Erik Morales' inspirational performance against Marcos Maidana from this past weekend at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The former three-division champion Morales shocked many by not only finding a way to survive the full twelve rounds but by also putting a serious amount of hurt on Maidana and convincing many that he had done enough to warrant a victory despite suffering a loss via majority decision.
Covering Morales countless times during the Tijuana fighter's legendary career, HBO analyst Larry Merchant obviously has a soft spot in his heart for the 34-year old. I reached out to Merchant earlier tonight for our weekly column and decided to discuss what could now be in store for Morales.
Without much hesitation, Larry pointed to a clash with a fellow Mexican as the one that makes the most sense right now.
"Before the fight I was calling Maidana 'Kid Cojones' but now I am going to also have to call Morales 'Kid Cojones'," Merchant opened up. "And whatever is left of him he will always have that. If he wants to keep going, and why wouldn't he after that kind of a fight, we may finally get to see him fight [Juan Manuel] Marquez, which is the only fight among that generation of featherweights that didn't fight each other."
It's a very interesting scenario when you pit the two future hall of famers against one another but Marquez's future seems more uncertain than ever for various reasons. The Mexico City fighter is reportedly in a position where he can either choose to return to Golden Boy Promotions and tackle various challenges between 135 and 140 pounds or look at a return to Top Rank in an effort to land a third fight with Manny Pacquiao should the Filipino star defeat Shane Mosley on May 7th.
I reminded Merchant of Marquez's situation but he was quick to point out that there is much more going on beneath the surface, at least according to his sources.
"He doesn't have to sign with Golden Boy," Merchant remarked. "He has a contract that doesn't expire until the end of the year or slightly beyond that. I'm not sure. My understanding is that the contract is, they could match anything that he could get elsewhere. So if he is offered five million dollars to fight Pacquiao, assuming Pacquiao beats Mosley, then Golden Boy would have the right to meet that. Would they make that much money with him fighting Morales on pay per view? I don't know."
"There was talk of some other fights where they, and I'm just brainstorming here, maybe they could offer him that price if he were to fight, for example, [Saul] Alvarez at 147. That's my understanding. And then of course, whether they want Marquez, it depends on him beating Mosley and whether Mayweather is finally going to decide if he needs to fight him. Those are the things, from my understanding, that are in play," Merchant added.
Merchant also pointed out that even if Marquez wanted a third tussle with Pacquiao, that perhaps he could go through with a Morales fight as well.
"Marquez may think that Morales is easy for him, relatively easy for him," he continued. "But would he jeopardize a potential fight against Pacquiao? That is my understanding on how all of that will play but it's interesting that Morales suddenly becomes a potential present for other foes. If it's the money that brought him back or because he just wanted to fight again, he fought his way into another good fight after that."
As our conversation came to a close, Merchant was sure to add that the reason Marquez was a late bloomer in his career while guys like Barrera and Morales flourished early was simply because he had a few missteps along the way. Larry continued that it was Marquez's polished boxing style that allowed him to have great longevity late during his tenure as a prizefighter, as he has always been more of a boxer-puncher than a pure brawler.
My last question to Merchant was a simple one. How does a modern day Morales-Marquez fight play out?
"Maybe he would be too good for Morales but you know that Morales would fight his ass off. Morales would make the best fight possible out of it. And it's a fight that I think now, we would want to see. And certainly the Mexican fans, who haven't really seen a new Mexican star emerge, would draw a considerable audience."