By Joseph Herron: On October 20th, in Brooklyn, New York, the world of boxing more than likely witnessed the final chapter in the career of a Mexican boxing legend.
Four division world champion and future Hall of Famer Erik “El Terrible” Morales was unceremoniously knocked out by the young incumbent Junior Welterweight Champion, Danny Garcia in just four rounds of action.
Although the 19 year fight veteran was most recently campaigning in the 140 pound weight class, the battler most affectionately known as “El Terrible” will most widely be remembered for his breathtaking matches at 122 and 126 pounds that truly captivated the masses; classic battles against Marco Antonio Barrera, Daniel Zaragoza, Junior Jones, Kevin Kelley, In-Jin Chi, and Manny Pacquiao.
Morales developed his exciting brand of brutality by predominately fighting the best of the Super Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions. And in a sport that traditionally showcased big men, the undersized warrior pioneered a boxing future that would eventually be filled with big events dominated by the action packed lower weight divisions.
On November 10th, 2012, just a little over 15 years since Morales won his first Super Bantamweight title, 26 year old Abner Mares will headline a major televised event that will take place in a 20K capacity arena in downtown Los Angeles.
Fifteen years ago, a national broadcast of this magnitude would have never featured a 122 pound fighter in the main event of the evening. But things have changed since “El Terrible” first laced up the mitts, and the current WBC Super Bantamweight Champion plans to extend the relatively new tradition of great 122 pound fights on the biggest stages of boxing.
While the two division world champion feels no pressure or obligation to uphold any previously tailored boxing custom, Abner Mares does feel a certain sense of requirement to the fight fans who currently carry the sport.
“My first responsibility as a fighter is to put on a show for the great fans of boxing,” insists the Mexican born California resident. “I do feel a sense of pride to be spectacular for my crowd. The boxing fans buy tickets to see a great fight and I have to perform at a high level and really give them what they pay for.”
In the mind of the undefeated WBC Champion, making the fans happy ultimately equates to fighting the best opposition available. Selecting the toughest challenges in his respective weight class has always been a conscious effort for Abner Mares.
“Fighting the best fighters out there has been my choice. My manager and promoter will suggest certain fighters, but I always have the final say and always make the decision concerning who I meet in the ring. The fans want to see fighters face the best in boxing, and that’s what I want also.”
Next Saturday, Abner will be defending his WBC title against the highly regarded WBA Super World Bantamweight Champion, Anselmo Moreno. The incumbent title holder claims that the crafty Panamanian fighter wasn’t his handlers’ preferred choice of opposition.
“To be honest, my management didn’t want me to take the fight with Anselmo Moreno. They thought that it would be best to take on an easier opponent at this time. But I don’t want that. I want to fight the best. I told them that I’m not about taking on anything less than the best. I have a responsibility as a champion to face the highest ranked fighters or the other recognized champions in boxing, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
“The fans want me to take on the best and they expect their champions to do that. The people have been asking for these fights and I owe it to them to face the best fighters in boxing. If the real fight fans want to see these fights, then you can’t just fight whomever you want.”
“I didn’t have to fight Moreno right now. But fighting the recognized best in the sport is what is needed right now in boxing. The people who love the sport like I do demand to see the best possible fights. I cherish my profession and I can’t go around disrespecting the sport by facing anything less than the toughest fighters out there.”
Just like his boxing predecessors, the young champion believes that pitting the best against the best is necessary to transcend the sport to a greater mainstream fight audience.
“When boxing used to be really big several decades ago, the free networks used to show great fights on prime time television, and sports fans knew they would be seeing a really important fight that showcased the best fighters in the world. Now you don’t see that.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do. I really want the fans to expect a really impactful fight whenever I step in the ring. Whether it’s against Nonito Donaire, Guillermo Rigondeaux, or Anselmo Moreno, I want the boxing fans to know that I’m willing to do what’s best for the sport; and that’s fighting the best possible opponents.”
“There are a lot of mangers and promoters who want to give the fight fans matches that they don’t really want to see. That’s not what’s going to sell the sport to a larger audience. The paying customers deserve a lot better, and I recognize that. I believe that boxing is very special, and the best way to let people know is to consistently give them the best possible product.”
The mature 26 year old knows that promoters, matchmakers, and managers have a heavy influence over their fighters’ selected opposition. But Abner Mares wisely realizes that the fighter ultimately has the final say.
“Look, the fighters are the ones who are taking the punches. We’re the people who are taking the risks every time we step foot in the ring. So we’re the ones who ultimately have the power to decide who we fight and who we don’t fight. I don’t care what any promoter says, if two fighters want to face each other and that’s the fight the fans really want to see, then there should be no problem making the fight happen and they should listen to what we want.”
“If the fans want to see Nonito Donaire fight Abner Mares, and the fighters want that fight as well, then Nonito should be able to tell Bob Arum that he wants to fight Abner Mares.”
“It’s pretty simple…if the fighters don’t fight then the promoters don’t make money. It’s in everyone’s best interest, including the fans, to put on the fights that the public wants to see. Boxing will eventually lose fans if they don’t. Fans will get tired of waiting for certain match-ups to take place and go watch another sport.”
“When fans get frustrated, they get mad at the sport. They don’t get mad at the fighters or the promoters, the fans eventually take it out on the sport and they move on to something else. And once you lose fans, it’s really hard to get them back. I think that’s what has happened to boxing in the past.”
“If we don’t make the great fights happen, the entire sport of boxing loses in the end.”
Fight fans should expect to see a great fight at the Staples Center on November 10th, when two of boxing’s most promising young stars meet in the ring. Both men, Abner Mares and Anselmo Moreno, are great ambassadors of the sport and deserve immense credit for simply making this superb match-up a reality.