By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Fourteen years have passed since Erik Morales beat Manny Pacquiao.
They fought twice more in 2006. Pacquiao stopped Morales in each of those 130-pound fights, including a third-round knockout in their third meeting in November 2006.
Mexico’s Morales, 42, is enjoying retirement. He hasn’t fought since Danny Garcia knocked him out in the fourth round of their rematch in October 2012.
The former four-division champion couldn’t fathom fighting into his 40s. That’s what impresses Morales so much about the 40-year-old Pacquiao continuing to compete at the elite level.
Morales joined longtime rival-turned-friend Marco Antonio Barrera, Ronald “Winky” Wright and Shawn Porter as part of a panel discussion Thursday to discuss the Pacquiao-Keith Thurman welterweight title fight Saturday night. The event took place in the media center, just a few feet away from MGM Grand Garden Arena, the site of Morales’ unanimous-decision victory over Pacquiao in March 2005.
“I’m definitely surprised, yeah, that he’s fighting at this age, and due to the fact that all the wars he’s had,” Morales said through a translator. “So, it’s very interesting that he’s still fighting. But then again, I’m not surprised because mentally, physically, he’s still training and still maintaining that all throughout his career, his great training regimen. So, by that I’m not surprised. But I am surprised by the time and the wars that he’s had that he’s still active.”
The Philippines’ Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) will attempt to beat a significantly younger opponent in a second consecutive bout when he challenges Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC), of Clearwater, Florida. In his last appearance, Pacquiao easily out-pointed Adrien Broner (33-4, 24 KOs, 1 NC), a four-division champion from Cincinnati, in their 12-rounder January 19 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Pacquiao is slightly favored to defeat Thurman, the WBA “super” welterweight champion, in their FOX Sports Pay-Per-View main event (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT; $74.95 in HD).
Morales picked Pacquiao to win Thursday.
“It’s gonna be a complicated fight, no doubt about it,” Morales said. “But knowing Pacquiao, starting in the second round, that’s when he’s gonna be starting to charge. So, it’s either gonna be decision Pacquiao, or maybe late, a knockout by Pacquiao.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.