A Fighter’s Mentality

By Richie Dooley:

‘’A champion shows who he is by what he does when he's tested. When a person gets up and says 'I can still do it', he's a champion.’’

Evander Holyfield

The words of the once great Heavyweight Champion of the world were silently echoed around the arena of the MGM grand in Las Vegas on the 9th of April 2011. The feared puncher Marcos Maidana was the victor of a mixed decision on the judge’s cards but once the dust had settled after 12 rounds of boxing it was Erik Morales who had the moral victory, the sense of pride and the admiration of the boxing world.

At the age of 34 and after 17 years fighting as a professional he is most definitely immortalized as one of the best Mexican fighters ever to grace the sport.

Out of his prime weight class of Super Bantamweight where he reigned for 3 years beating the likes of Junior Jones and Marco Antonio Barrera, past his prime and with one eye shut from the start of the second round due to a vicious uppercut executed by the Argentine the Mexican icon against the odds, using his boxing brain and Mexican heart began to turn back the clock against the younger hungry Maidana.

From the first round Maidana jumped on his prey as if he would end Morales earlier than the p4p great Pacquiao did 6 years previous, but this was not to be as Morales lasted the onslaught. Under the fighting conditions people experience what is called fight or flight response, this inate reaction is what drives people to become champions or lets them fall into the sea of the ordinary. Morales did not run and chose to fight man against man despite his disadvantages; a true quality of a champion. As the fight progressed and as if Morales knew how it was written he began to come on strong, more and more glimpses of the Morales of old showed. Taking Maidana’s shots and coming back with his own accurate combinations.
The tattooed Argentinean hard man began to get frustrated that he could not take out ‘the old Mexican’ and then in the 5th it seemed as if it was Morales who wanted to fight more as Maidana was backed up to the ropes with a classy combination. With one eye fully shut, it was clear to see who the real warrior was in the ring as the crowd were on their feet as both fighters went toe to toe at the end of the round.

It was clear to see who had the superior skills, ability and boxing brain but Maidana was resilient and using his strength and youth to his advantage. Coming down the final stretch of the fight the MGM was filled with a sweet melody of MEXICO MEXICO. The fans, journalists, pundits…. Everyone was in disbelief that this over the hill Super Bantamweight was taking the fight to the highly ranked and feared Maidana.

Landing hard left hooks and stiff jabs, it was clear to see Morales believed in himself, even if everyone else wrote him off. He was the one who wanted to fight Maidana, despite popular belief that he was one of the toughest assignments in the Light welterweight division. This fight was for legacy, for honour and to be recognised as a real fighter.

In a fight of the year candidate although his speed and reflexes were diminishing, Morales showed the heart and willpower of a champion. A lesser man would have crumbled under the pressure and the hard punching that he was bombarded with form round one and the expectations of the boxing world on the former champion.

During the 9th and 10th rounds Morales displayed more courage as he traded shots and tried to make the fight out of reach for Maidana by taking the last rounds, unfortunately his body was exhausted and in the final rounds Maidana came on strong again. Morales body after 57 wars in the ring would not do what his spirit wanted him with little energy his heart kept him fighting until the final bell.

Whatever the judges result was there was one clear winner in the hearts of the people as the Mexico chants filled the arena once again. Even Rudy Perez Maidana’s trainer had to give El Terrible respect as one of the greatest Mexican warriors of all time.

Before a fighter Erik Morales is a man.

Article posted on 18.06.2011

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