By Jake Donovan
Six months after making boxing history for his native Mexico, four-division titlist Erik Morales has elected to end his reign on the scales.
Morales was over the limit for Saturday’s showdown with Danny Garcia, which headlines an HBO-televised doubleheader (10PM ET/PT) from Reliant Arena in Houston.
As the scales read 142 lb. for what was supposed to be a 140 lb. title defense, Morales (52-7, 36KO) showed no desire to sweat off the remaining two pounds and opted to vacate the title.
He is also forced to part with 10% of his purse. Half of that amount goes to the Texas Boxing Commission; the remaining half goes to Garcia, who checked in at a chiseled 139.5 lb. for a bout that marks his first on HBO and for a title.
Boxing-rich Mexico saw its first ever four-division champion when Morales claimed the vacant 140 lb. belt with a come-from-behind 10th round stoppage of then-unbeaten Pablo Cesar Cano last September. Morales came up short in a previous attempt at making history, going to war with Marcos Maidana but landing on the wrong end of their 12-round war last April.
Much discussion was made over the great lengths that both the WBC and Golden Boy Promotions went through to make the belt available for Morales’ showdown with Cano. Plans originally called for a long overdue collision with countryman Juan Manuel Marquez, who instead opted out of their scheduled summer bout to pursue a third fight with Manny Pacquiao.
Morales instead agreed to face Lucas Matthysse, only for the Argentine brawler to suffer an injury late in the promotion as he was replaced by Cano. The WBC still kept the sanctioning intact, allowing Morales to claim championship status in four weight classes after scoring the dramatic win.
The belt is now only on the line for Garcia (22-0, 14KO), who earned the title shot by soundly outpointing Kendall Holt in their title eliminator last October. Garcia earned mandatory status with a different sanctioning body at the time, but jumped at the opportunity to face Morales.
Now, he’s one win away from the WBC avoiding a vacancy to fill. Should Morales emerge victorious on Saturday, the belt will remain vacant.
Either way, the winner will presumably have to next face Ajose Olusegun (32-0, 14KO), the mandatory contender whose title shot has been long overdue. The unbeaten Nigerian will be at ringside to take in the action and will no doubt challenge whoever’s hand is raised at night’s end.
The principles in the televised co-feature did their job, as James Kirkland and Carlos Molina made weight for their billed junior middleweight title eliminator. Both fighters came in at 153 ¾ in what is yet another in a long line of elimination bouts in which someone will eventually be mandated to face current titlist Saul Alvarez.
Kirkland (30-1, 27KO) enters the fight on the heels of his biggest win to date, recovering from an opening round knockdown to beat down Alfredo Angulo en route to a sixth round stoppage in their non-stop thriller last November. The bout capped a 2011 campaign that was a comeback within a comeback, as the Texan is now all the way recovered from the lone loss of his career, a disastrous first-round blitzing at the hands of Nobuhiro Ishida last April.
Molina (19-4-2, 6KO) makes his HBO debut, a long overdue showcase for the hard luck contender who has been on ice since his upset points win in a surprisingly dominant performance over Kermit Cintron last July. The Wisconsin-based spoiler also held then-unbeaten Erislandy Lara to a disputed draw early last year, but only now reaps the benefits of what was a breakout 2011 campaign.
In other weight-missing news, Jose Luis Castillo remained historically true to character in weighing more than two pounds over the contracted 145 lb. limit for his non-televised showdown with Jose Miguel Cotto. Castillo is of course infamous for twice missing weight against Diego “Chico” Corrales, including a blown attempt in what ultimately canceled their third fight.
As he continues on in a comeback that is purely financially driven, Castillo showed up at 147.7 lb to face Cotto, who came in at a professionally ready 144.5 lb. for their 10-round preliminary bout.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]