By Cliff Rold
Perhaps there needs to be a new rule applied to the English language. It’s not enough anymore to say “El Terrible,” or just the name Erik Morales. Marvin Hagler legally changed his first name to Marvelous.
He was right.
After Saturday’s gritty reminder of just how awesome the action star at the heart of this generation’s gold standard for excellence, the 2000’s Featherweight Four, has been; after being reminded just how lucky fight fans have been to see him do his thing; the least the world can do is add a character.
An exclamation point?
Maybe it’s as simple as that.
Because, when it comes to Erik Morales! (51-7, 35 KO), boxing fans speak of no ordinary warrior. He is an exclamation point on everything that is right, that is and always will be great about boxing.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Maidana B-; Morales! B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Maidana A; Morales! B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Maidana C; Morales! C/Post: C; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Maidana A+; Morales! A+/Post: Same (and then some)
While the crowd may have booed the decision, there was nothing particularly wrong with Marcos Maidana (30-2, 27 KO) getting the majority decision duke on Saturday.
It just felt wrong.
As HBO’s Jim Lampley put it, borrowing from colleague Larry Merchant, Morales! won the event. Those calling this a funeral procession go into the annals of brilliant prognostication next similar predictions before Roberto Duran-Iran Barkley, Tommy Hearns-Virgil Hill, and Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson.
The first of those deserves special attention because Morales!-Maidana was in many ways it’s brother by way of analogy. Mexico’s Morales! was just quick enough to handle someone with the lack of speed Maidana possesses despite notable power from the Argentine. Always underrated in terms of the skill he possessed at his peak, when Morales! wasn’t walking through bombs, he was doing a fine job making Maidana miss and he feinted the younger man out of his shoes in spots.
He also hurt the younger man more than once.
Oh, and before it’s forgotten, he did it all with one eye. Maidana landed a nasty uppercut in the very first round and Morales swelled up like he was allergic. Of course, as any fight fan knows, Morales! is never allergic to getting hit.
Maybe Morales! being able to see out of one eye was simply God evening out the playing field to spare the young, and thrilling, Maidana a career damaging loss.
Maybe it was God showing off that, when he makes a bad ass, he gets it right.
Roy Jones was not on commentary for HBO Saturday night so God’s official position is unknown at this time.
Morales! stole the show but Maidana deserves his credit as well. Rumors of Morales!’s demise, at least against the right opponents, might have been false. The facts of Maidana’s emergence as one of the sports most dependable warriors in the new generation were restated.
Following the fight, the word rematch was thrown around. No one would be opposed. Morales! called out Lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, the man originally intended to stand across the ring Saturday night. If Marquez cannot get the third Manny Pacquiao he desires, Morales!-Marquez is the fight that should, that must, happen.
It is the missing link of this generation. Marquez, Morales!, Pacquiao, and Marco Antonio Barrera have been paired in every combination except one. Now, after Saturday, Morales!-Marquez looks like a serious fight.
They’re not getting any younger after all…if age is applicable to the immortals.
The report card’s of the week behind provided a look at, if failed to pick the winner in, two other significant matches as well, one on the undercard of Morales!-Maidana and the other as the headliner of a big Japanese tripleheader.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Robert Guerrero B+; Michael Katsidis B/Post: A-; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Guerrero B-; Katsidis A/Post: B+; A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Guerrero B; Katsidis D+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Guerrero B; Katsidis B+/Post: B+; B+
Guerrero (29-1-1, 18 KO) has been the quietest of two-division beltholders. It looks like his third class might be his best. “The Ghost” looked fantastic in carving Katsidis to shreds, overcoming some heavy shots to the head, and a vicious body assault late, with patience, workrate, and a laser of a jab.
It’s hard, despite his flaws, to criticize Katsidis (27-4, 22 KO). He gives so much of himself, and gives so much to the folks who pay to see him. However, it’s hard to imagine after Saturday that he has anyplace to go. He’s bordering on, might already be, settling into a gatekeeper spot. He’ll tell the truth about a young talent or two before he’s done but, given the quality of the Lightweight class in 2011, it’s hard to see Katsidis with a belt in his future.
Guerrero is a different matter. The HBO crew made note of how he looks ready for Marquez and a shot at the Lightweight throne. It could be the case. If Marquez is otherwise engaged, Guerrero picked up an interim WBA (and WBO) strap Saturday. The ‘regular’ WBA titlist is Brandon Rios (27-0, 22 KO). Guerrero-Rios would be sensational. Promotional squabbles (i.e. Golden Boy v. Top Rank) probably prevent it.
One can hope for more.
Across the Pacific…
Pre-Fight: Speed – Hozumi Hasegawa A; Jhonny Gonzalez B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Hasegawa B; Gonzalez B+/Post: B; A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Hasegawa B; Gonzalez C+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Hasegawa B+; Gonzalez B/Post: B-; A
Hasegawa (29-4, 12 KO) had an outstanding run at Bantamweight. He’s not going to have one at Featherweight. At least, it doesn’t look like he will. For the second time in three fights, a Mexican veteran looking for a career changing, perhaps even capping, victory, went over Hasegawa in four rounds to get it. A massive, blind right hand bomb dropped Hasegawa in what had been a tense chess match and, while he rose, Hasegawa was still far enough gone that the referee said no mas on his behalf.
Gonzalez (48-7, 42 KO), a former Bantamweight titlist, went on the road for the win and was rewarded with a WBC belt and a new lease on fistic life. Knockout losses to Israel Vazquez, Gerry Penalosa, and Toshiaki Nishioka, each uglier than the last, left Gonzalez looking like a man on his last wobbly legs. He probably still is. For now, he’s also still a rangy veteran with proven, concussive power who will make exciting-while-they-last fights with anyone at 126 lbs.
For instance, could Gonzalez versus the winner of the proposed Juan Manuel Lopez-Rafael Marquez II be anything short of sensational? Gonzalez, if nothing else, has options. Hasegawa can look to Gonzalez’s recovery from multiple stoppage losses and find some hope himself.
As a bonus, last week’s report card for the big Jr. Flyweight rematch makes a late appearance to tie up the fates around Flyweight where one Giovanni Segura is concerned.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Ivan Calderon A; Giovanni Segura B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Calderon C-; Segura A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Calderon A; Segura C-/Post: B; C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Calderon A; Segura A/Post: B; A
Segura had wounded prey in front of him and responded as he should have. The usual defensive prowess of Calderon was simply overwhelmed. Calderon made no adjustment to the body shots of Segura that slipped just under his elbows the first time and did again. Early he tried to tie up but the smallest of world-class fighters could have tried to be smaller.
It just wasn’t there. Not the solutions. Not the fighter who could have had a chance a few years ago.
Segura’s jabs were driving Calderon back even in the first and by the second the body work of Segura was sapping the snap of Calderon. In the third, it was a choice between taking the beating already dished, or taking a beating all night. Calderon’s always had the problem of not having the single shot power to turn things back. He needed rounds, and he needed all his other tools.
With those gone, it was a foregone conclusion.
Calderon (34-2-1, 6 KO) has had an excellent career and was the best sub-Flyweight of his time, the best of the littlest men since Ricardo Lopez. He may even have a future. The right foes, foes who don’t have the heavy hands and youth of Segura, could keep him winning and around. The best is behind him though and without a power equalizer some real damage could be in his future.
For Mexico’s Segura (27-1-1, 23 KO), a trip to Flyweight appears imminent. He’s huge for 108 lbs. and will be big even at 112. Maybe he could add another couple pounds?
The question is asked because, while watching him again best Calderon, thoughts drifted to the only other man who ever came close against the Puerto Rican boxing master. WBA titlist Hugo Cazares (34-6-2, 24 KO) is, as Segura will be after he vacates, a former lineal Jr. Flyweight champ who has emerged as the leader at 115 lbs.
Since 1999, Cazares has lost only to Calderon. Can Segura join the club?
Show of hands:
Does anyone think a fight between Cazares and Segura is not, instantly, the moment they sign the contracts, and that signing would probably be in manly blood given the way they do their business, is there any way it’s not a Fight of the Year candidate?
Didn’t think so. The size difference, despite what the scale says right now, is minimal. There is no reason this can’t happen. Jumping two classes is unusual, sure. It’s worth the exception here. Segura-Cazares couldn’t suck if both dudes chewed on pacifiers while teeing off on one another.
Bring it on.
Report Card Picks 2011: 9-3
Cruiserweight: Wlodarczyk’s win was debatable at best and he slips a spot, behind the excellent Denis Lebedev.
Super Middleweight: With a year of inactivity and no fight scheduled, Andre Dirrell exits the ratings.
Middleweight: The disqualification he suffered at Super Middleweight, challenging titlist Robert Stieglitz, was bad enough. Physically pursuing a referee for making a reasonable call is enough to get Khoren Gevor bounced from the top ten for the time being.
Jr. Welterweight: Erik Morales outperformed young contender Victor Ortiz against common foe Maidana and, since Ortiz and Lamont Peterson battled about even up, Morales enters the top ten at number eight.
Lightweight: Robert Guerrero makes a big jump and Michael Katsidis slides on the strength of Guerrero’s big win.
Featherweight: Jhonny Gonzalez heads towards the top half of the Featherweight division, finally pulling the big win he’s fallen short of before against the increasingly vulnerable Hozumi Hasegawa.
Flyweight: For those who missed it, go to YouTube and check out Hernan Marquez’s WBC belt win over Luis Concepcion. A savage affair with multiple knockdowns beginning in the first round, Marquez won in eleven and crashes the ratings high. Concepcion? He gave too much to slip far from his number two slot.
It’s been a hectic last two weeks. All the results and updates are a page away.
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 [email protected]