Pacquiao - Morales: Could This Be The End of The Line For El Terrible?

manny pacquiao11.07.06 - By Ryan Songalia: It is general knowledge that fighter's can get old overnight, and for Erik Morales, that night was January 20, 2006. On that night, Filipino flash Manny Pacquiao annhilated and demolished the great Morales, dropping him twice en route to a tenth round stoppage. As the fallen warrior lay prone on the canvas, many in the sport had come to the conclusion that the sand had simply run out of "El Terrible's" hour glass. However, after contemplating his options, Morales elected to fight Pacquiao once again. While Morales has a history of disproving detractors, many question the wisdom of this move. Did Morales just run into a roadblock against a great fighter, or has he finally hit the wall?

Erik Morales, 48-4 (34 KO), is no stranger to being written off as a dominant fighter. More than once in his career, Morales had been labeled as a shot fighter, a guy who had bitten off more than he can cumulatively chew. Each time he had been discredited by the boxing public, he came back to prove himself once again as a living legend to be remembered by boxing fans.

The first time the boxing press suggested he might be slipping was in 2000. In one of the greatest fights of the last 20 years, Morales won a close and controversial decision over Barrera. Following the hell of their initial encounter, Morales seemed vulnerable, winning shaky decisions over B level opposition.

Feeling the need to prove himself to the world, Morales faced Barrera again in 2002. Despite not getting the decision in a fight he might have gotten the better of, he showed that he was still a great fighter. Morales rebounded from his first professional loss well, by moving up to the junior lightweight division to decision Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez for title belts.

Having won titles in three divisions, Morales decided to finish his trilogy with his arch rival Marco Antonio Barrera. From the outset, Morales appeared flat and without desire as he was outhustled and outslugged by Barrera. Having suffered the second loss of his career in such clear fashion, he once again had to deal with the press that questioned how much he had left in the tank. What better way to answer that than to face the most dangerous fighter in the sport, Manny Pacquiao?

In their first bout, Morales and Pacquiao declared war in one of the most sensational bouts of 2005. While Pacquiao had his moments, Morales' experience, aided by a horrid gash in the middle of Pacquiao's face, was enough to secure a decision victory. Once again on top of the boxing world, Morales' career had been rejuvenated with what was one of the most courageous exhibitions of his career.

Following the brilliance of their first fight, they decided to do it again the next year. Before they were to meet again, they both appeared on the same card in tuneup bouts to hype up public support of their rematch. While Pacquiao knocked out his opponent, Morales' assignment did not go according to plan. Unable to get his rhythm going, he was thoroughly humiliated and schooled by the unheralded Zahir Raheem.

During the course of the bout, Morales exhibited many symptons of being all done in as a fighter. One sure fire sign of a fighter being shot is his balance. When a shot fighter throws a punch, often times his feet will become crossed and he will fall off balance. Raheem capitalized on Morales' balance all night, dominating the Tijuana native with counter punching and movement. While many attributed Morales' sluggish performance to an over ambitious jump in weight, it became an omen of things to come.

In spite of his Morales' unsuccessful effort in his last fight, the rematch between the instant rivals took place anyways. of After controlling most of the first half of the fight, Pacquiao’s youth and power began to take apart the Mexican legend. After inflicting the first two legitimate knockdowns of Morales’ career, Pacquiao’s youth and will overcame Morales and finished him in the tenth round. Following his first knockout loss, many ringside observers felt that Morales’ tank had finally run empty.

In a surprising move, Morales decided to excercise a rematch clause for a third fight when most pundits figure this to be a foolish move. Having lost three of his last four fights, it is a very questionable move on Morales behalf. Going straight from a knockout loss straight back to the man who finished you is an extremely bold move, but is it wise?

Fighters are often too brave for their own good, and in that instance the man's support system needs to step in and assess the situation. To Morales' detriment, he parted business interests with his father Jose, the only trainer he had ever had during his career. In addition to his unstable support system are his ongoing struggles at the scale. During the planning for the third fight with Pacquiao, Morales tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a catch weight of 132. In between bouts, Morales has been known to balloon to as high as 170 pounds. Now contrast that with Pacquiao, who is a notorious gym freak who maintains his conditioning very well. Morales' inability to control his weight between fights may have finally caught up to him.

Since the last time they fought, Pacquiao defeated Oscar Larios in convincing fashion, keeping sharp while awaiting his third encounter with Morales. They will meet again on November 18, by which time Morales would have been inactive for ten months. For the first time in his career, Morales will be a justifiable underdog in an uphill battle. Can Morales turn back the hands of time, or is Manny Pacquiao the end of the line for one of the greatest fighters of the last ten years?

Ryan Songalia is a syndicated columnist. Any comments or questions, you can reach him at .

Article posted on 11.07.2006

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