Erik and Oscar, a tale of fading champions

11.09.05 - By Andy Meacock: Erik Morales shockingly lost a 12 round points decision to Zahir Raheem in Los Angeles on Saturday night. This fight was the joint main event of a double bill that featured Manny Pacquiao and Hector Valazquez on the undercard. This was intended to be a promotional selling tool for the eagerly awaited Morales/Pacquaio rematch intended for early next year. Raheem had different ideas.. The heavy underdog out-boxed Morales for much of the fight and despite a late rally from Morales, which included a couple of questionable knock downs not given, it was all too late.

So why did it all go wrong for the great from Tijuana, Mexico?

Well first of all we have to give Raheem his due, nobody gave him a chance against Morales and he proved them wrong. Raheemís stock has risen dramatically due to this unexpected win and at least for now, he is something of a player in the lightweight division.

People will also look at the loss as a case of styles making fights. Whilst Morales can box efficiently, heís known as a proud man who enjoys fighting in wars. When preparing for Morales, Raheem must have been aware of the aggressive tendencies Morales has in the ring and set his strategy accordingly.

So was it a case of styles?

Itís possible but I really donít think so. The fact is Morales looked very slow in the ring against Raheem, you have to think that a Morales who was firing on all cylinders would have got the job done.

So the question we ask is, why was Morales so slow and lethargic?
The one thing that many people love Morales for is that his fights are rarely boring. Heís an entertaining fighter, thereís no denying it. His battles with Marco Antonio Barrera and Pacquaio tell us that. The problem with having wars is that it takes its toll on the body in the long term. This fact is obvious but often overlooked.

Morales has had fifty one fights. His last five fights have all gone the full twelve rounds and have all been fairly close and heís looked slower. Heís lost two of those last five fights. So without wishing to jump on the Ďfathertimeí bandwagon, I feel that Morales recent struggles (Pacquaio fight aside) are down to long term fatigue.

Top calibre boxers are first and foremost athletes but they are also human. Everyone has limits as to how far they can go and how long they can stay at their peak but then they begin to decline. After peaking, the muscles start to tire, reactions get slower and so on. Erik Morales is probably as game and determined fighter that there is in boxing but the fact remains that whilst Moralesí will is strong and his body is jaded.

You can compare this analogy to any great champion in any sport.

I know this is a strange cross-over to make but look at tennis for an example. A few years ago you had Pete Sampras destroying all that came before him. He was very accomplished and had great success but he eventually began to fade and lost his way. Itís sad seeing any great champion in any sport decline and sadly thatís what I see happening to Erik Morales.

The title of my article is, ĎErik and Oscar, a tale of fading championsí. The Oscar I refer to is none other than Oscar de la Hoya. When I was thinking about Morales loss, I saw many parallels with Oscar. Both men have been at the top for a long time, both men are multiple champions at various different weights and both men are destined for the hall of fame once their careers finally come to a close.

Sadly, there are some negative comparisons to be made between these two greats.

They have been in there with the best and have the physical scars to prove it. Morales has fought great fighters like Junior Jones, Wayne McCullough, Marco Antonio Barrera, Jesus Chavez and Manny Pacquaio. Oscarís list of opponents is equally as impressive, names like Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Ike Quartey, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins. I could have named more great previous opponents for both men.

The point is that you canít continually fight guys of that calibre without experiencing long term fatigue, itís a sad inevitability. It also has to be stated that another significant factor in the demise of these two men is moving up in weight. Whilst itís admirable to want to challenge bigger fighters in higher weight classes, itís also draining on the body and especially in de la Hoyaís case; it can have a negative effect of stamina and conditioning.

As for the future of these two men. Morales will go ahead with his rematch with Manny Pacquaio early next year. Iím having problems deciding who I think will win this one. On the basis of last nights performance Iíd have to pick Pacquaio, maybe even by knockout but then if thereís one thing that sums up Morales, itís that heís determined and very proud. Heíll come out like a wounded lion against Pacquaio but whether that will be enough against the quicker opponent is to be seen.

Oscar de la Hoya worries me even more than Morales as at least Morales still seems have the fire in him and attitude. It seems to me like Oscar is already proud and at peace with his accomplishments. Lack of desire and motivation is a fighters worst enemy and sadly that what I think of modern day Oscar de la Hoya. Itís widely reported that Oscar will be back in May 2006, possibly against Fernando Vargas.

I just want to state that this article wasnít written to ridicule, criticise or sound hateful towards either man. The truth is that Iím a huge fan of both and whilst I think their better days are behind them, I still hope and wish they do well...

If you agree or disagree with this piece or simply have an opinion on these two fighters then please leave it in the comments section below.

Article posted on 11.09.2005

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