Boxing

Sharkie's Machine: Morales Conquers Pacquaio

21.03.05 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: Living legend and Tijuana native, Erik "El Terrible" Morales upped his record to 48-2-0-34 KO's on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where as the underdog, he faced dangerous rising Philippine Star, Manny "PacMan" Pacquaio (39-3-2-30 KO's) in a Super Featherweight match up of epic proportions. Morales was insulted by the odds. But the odds makers were wrong.

Manny Pacquaio has been on a mission. In November of 2003, he beat up on Marco Antonio Barrera so badly that Barrera's corner threw in the towel to make it a TKO 11 victory for Pacman. That shocked the boxing world.

Pacquaio's management has had an aggressive agenda and the Barrera fight was just the start of a tour that would include J.M. Marquez (WBA and IBF FW Champion) and Erik Morales, the three most notable Featherweights in the world.

Pacquaio's memorable battle (in May of 2004) against J.M. Marquez featured Marquez going down three times in the first round from devastating power punches. But, Marquez got up and out boxed Pacman well enough for the remaining rounds that it was officially decided as a (controversial) Draw..

After Marquez, it was on to the Philippines, where last December, Pacquaio fought Fashsan "3K Battery" Por Thawatchai (44-7) and floored "3K" four times and won by TKO 4.

A rematch was offered to Marquez, who out priced himself and left the door open for Morales, who stepped right up to the challenge just four months removed from his loss to Barrera. This would be Erik's opportunity to regain his status, tarnished to a small degree by his loss to arch rival, Barrera last November.

Morales presented Pacman with problems he could not solve. Morales' ring generalship, cool demeanor and accurate punching proved to be the right recipe for stopping the Pacman express.

Entering this fight, Morales weighed 140-pounds. Pacquaio, 139. Lightweights? (At least it wasn't 17 pounds over ala Cotto vs. Corley)

Pacquaio vs. Morales is my pick for "Fight of the Year" honors so far in 2005. This battle was a contrast of styles that again proved that superior boxing skills can over come a great power punching. And Morales had one indispensable quality-a chin of iron.

Once Morales showed he could take Pacman's punch, Manny didn't seem like the man with the power. Morales' accuracy, ranginess and chin were too much for Manny to conquer.

The Fight

Round 1
Pacman was the aggressor, doubling and tripling his left jabs and hooks as he tried to land big bombs right away and test Morales chin. After Pacman hit Morales a few times, Erik got mad and went after Pacman, landing some quality shots that got Manny's attention. Pacman scored some good body shots and was overall the busier fighter. Morales blocked lots of Manny's shots
but didn't land enough of his own. 10-9 Pacquaio.

Round 2
The action went back and forth, with both scoring in spots. Morales established his range, circling Pacman to the left and focused on effective counterpunching. Morales landed the cleaner punches as he boxed from the outside; forcing Pacman to come in and eat counter punches. Pacman threw barrages of wild shots and Morales showed he could take his power. Pacman
also missed a lot of shots. Whenever Pacman scored, Morales went after him and took his revenge. Morales accurate punching wins the round. 10-9 Morales. 19-19 Even.

Round 3
Pacquaio aggressively worked the body and scored. Morales landed a straight right hand followed by a left hook upstairs. Pacman went wild in spots but Morales blocked most of his shots and served up his own, cleaner punches. Morales length allowed him a longer reach and he utilized it. Pacquaio pressed Morales into the corner, where Morales turned into Floyd Mayweather Jr., ducking and slipping all of Manny's shots. Then Morales got out of the corner and into the center ring where he cracked Manny with solid punches that were starting to show their effects. Pacman forced Morales back into the ropes with a flurry of punches. Morales got riled up and went after Pacman, popping him into the opposite side ropes and landing quality punches. Pacman landed a solid right cross at the bell. 10-9 Morales. 29-28 Morales.

Round 4
Morales was relaxed as he boxed from outside. Pacman was wasting energy, jumping in and out with shots that only grazed the target and he paid when Morales countered with accurate shots that scored points. Morales bullied Pacquaio into the ropes, scoring up and down. Every time Pacman was near the ropes, Morales was all over him. 10-9 Morales. 39-37 Morales.

Round 5
During an exchange, Morales landed an uppercut to Manny's chin. When Morales landed, Pacquaio was moved out of position more so than when Pacman hit Morales, who proved to be the stronger of the two. Pacquaio landed good shots but Morales took them well. Pacman could hurt Morales and both knew it. During an exchange inside, they butted heads. Whenever they traded, Morales got the better of it. A moment after the head butt, Morales landed a few shots to the face and Pacman's right eye was cut and bleeding. Referee, Joe Cortez said the cut was caused by a punch. The head butt may have softened the area and a punch opened up a cut. The ringside doctor got inside the ring (unusual) and examined Pacquaio for a long time. The crowd was on their feet and making noise indicating that they didn't want to see a stoppage because of a cut. Boxing is not a democracy but the fight continued anyway. When action resumed, Morales took his time, jabbed three times and then whacked Pacquaio with a right cross to the ear. Pacman was getting beaten up. 10-9 Morales. 49-46 Morales.

Round 6
Pacman came on strong, scored some good shots but none of them fazed Morales, who has one hell of a chin. Morales taunted Pacman with body language, dropping his arms on defense and shrugging his shoulders when Pacman landed to say, "You can't hurt me." He was in Pacman's head-and all over his face and body as he took Manny to the ropes and rocked him with a straight right. Though Pacman was working hard, moving, punching and even landing, he was losing the tactical battles in the ring. Pacquaio held his ground but it wasn't enough to win the round. Morales was economical with his movement. Pacquaio seemed nervously jumpy. Morales tauntingly dropped his guard as the seconds waned to rounds end. 10-9 Morales. 59-55 Morales.

Round 7
Pacquaio landed a left hook that shook Morales, who was moving slower, almost taking a breather but always moving to Pacman's left. Pacman landed more left hooks, some to the face, some downstairs, some blocked. Pacman was busier. Morales dug into Pacman's body with lefts and rights. Though Manny landed good shots, he was not hurting Morales, who landed another body shot, followed by another straight right to Pacman's jaw that rocked him. Pacman shoe-shined punches into Morales gut but Morales took it in stride and countered effectively. 10-9 Morales. 69-64 Morales.

Round 8
Morales looked relaxed and in control as he took many shots from Pacquaio but was never hurt and landed cleaner shots of his own in return. Morales was simply the superior boxer-puncher and he was landing the better blows during most of the exchanges. Pacman kept coming forward, but was getting hit regularly. 10-9 Morales. 79-73 Morales.

Round 9
Morales was in control. Pacman boxed smarter though, landed some good shots and was outworking Morales. A hard right hand by Pacman rocked Morales into the ropes. Pacman followed with another right when suddenly, Morales retaliated (as is his nature) but Pacman got the better of the exchanges in a round where Morales was less active. 10-9 Pacquaio. 88-83 Morales.

Round 10
They boxed at center ring, cautiously. Morales started initiating things and wailed on Pacman, beating him around the ring like a ragamuffin. Pacquaio lost his mouthpiece but continued to brawl with Morales until finally, there was a clinch that enabled Cortez to pause the action to replace Manny's mouthpiece. Morales squatted in his corner during the break. When action resumed, Morales continued to get the better punches off in a wild round of action. The crowd chanted, "Mexico, Mexico, Mexico!" Morales landed a straight right at the bell. 10-9 Morales. 98-92 Morales.

Round 11
Pacquaio peppered Morales with all he could muster. His shots had little pop left but both guys were tired and even a weakened, beat up Manny Pacman is dangerous. Morales landed a huge right that rocked Manny. Always moving to the left, Morales neutralized Pacman's ability to sit on his shots. Morales again taunted with body language, dropping his guard, feinting, almost comically. Maybe Morales was just tired and trying to mask that fact. Pacman was a bloody mess, but kept pressing the action, trying to land the shot that could change his fortunes. That shot didn't come in the eleventh. When Pacman scored, late in the round, Morales smiled at him. Pacman was busier and scored more. 10-9 Pacquaio. 107-102 Morales.

Round 12
Cortez takes both fighters by the hands and sort of forces a final round handshake. It wasn't necessary as both raised their arms and touched gloves in a sign of respect. Pacman needed a knock out to win. Morales was technically dominating him most of the fight with his taller frame and superior accuracy. Morales gave Manny a chance to get the KO by switching to southpaw stance and found himself getting hit more frequently. Pacman won most of the exchanges while Erik was fooling around as a southpaw. Morales, who loves to brawl, choose to close in all out war from a disadvantaged posture in the last round. Both men battled till the bell sounded. Pacman took advantage of Morales going southpaw and landed the better punches. 10-9
Pacquaio. 116-112 Morales.

Damn-what a fight!

* * *

The official Judges all scored it 115-113 in favor of Erik Morales. There were no knockdowns and happily, no controversial scoring. Both guys deserve tremendous respect for their performance. This is easily a top candidate for '2005 Fight of the Year' honors.

The idea that if Pacquaio could beat Barrera, who just beat Morales, then Morales could not beat Pacquaio-has been proven wrong.

Styles make fights. If Barrera were to have a rematch with Pacquaio, things could go either way. When great fighters face each other, anything can happen. All the idol worship and speculation in the world can't change that.

Morales appeared to believe with his entire being that Pacman could not hurt him and he did a better job of handling Pacquaio than Marquez ever dreamed when he created the blueprint for how to beat Pacquaio. Morales moved to Manny's left, attacked at the right moments, had a better defense and was able to impose his will and effectively neutralize Pacman's potent offense.

Look at any picture of Morales AFTER one of his fights with Barrera-his face is always bruised and bloody. After Pacman, only his nose was a little swollen and he had some swelling on the left cheek. So much for, 'if A can beat B and B beat C than C can't beat A.'

Morales is back on top. He can fight Barrera again, rematch Pacquaio, go after Marquez or move up to 135 and make his mark there. Morales is an active fighter, usually fighting three times a year. The year is still young, who's next?

Pacquaio's a big Star because he deserves to be. There was no loss of dignity in losing to one of the best fighters in the sport. He lost Saturday night, but who's to say he can't come back and win a rematch against Morales. He is a dangerous proposition for anyone in his league and I expect his next fight will reflect that attitude.

Pacquaio said he would like to fight Morales again. Morales is a Warrior and did not object to the possibility. They should have a rematch; rivalries are great for the sport. After what I saw Saturday night, I can't imagine Pacman ever beating Morales-but that's why they fight the fights-because you never know until they fight. As of now, its Morales 1, Pacquaio 0.

Morales should take on J.M. Marquez. So should Barrera. Marquez has unfinished business with Pacquaio. Long live the drama.

* * *

Comments can be emailed to dshark87@hotmail.com

Article posted on 21.03.2005



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