Rewind fifteen years and Mexican great Erik Morales had just lost his third and final fight with fierce rival and countryman Marco Antonio Barrera. But being cut from a different cloth to many fighters who, after suffering a heartbreaking defeat would either take a long layoff or look to find a nice and easy comeback foe, Morales did things his way.
Morales never took a long break, nor did he look to face an easy touch in his return. No, Morales, after all he had done – all the great fights, wars, all the titles he had won – decided to fight the emerging terror that was Manny Pacquiao. And this after having had 49 pro fights. Many people thought Morales, 47-2, was significantly past his best, that the hard, hard fights had taken enough out of him for southpaw dynamo to do something similar to what the Filipino had done to Barrera; who Pac-Man gobbled up and spat out in his massive breakout fight in 2003.
Morales was a significant underdog upon entering the ring in Las Vegas. Pacquiao had thrilled fight fans massively over the previous year or so; thrashing Barrera and then boxing a draw with another Mexican great in Juan Manuel Marquez, who Pacquiao had decked three times in the opening round and had almost got the stunning KO win against. But against the tough, experienced and savvy Morales, Pacquiao found out he was not yet a complete fighter.
Morales fought a great fight, punching it out with Pacquiao, out-working him, outboxing him, hitting him with the cleaner shots and taking all that came in return without issue. Morales looked as good as he ever had; this just under four months after the trilogy battle with Barrera! Morales turned lefty in the 12th and final round and went toe-to-toe with the younger, faster, fresher Pacquiao – he said later “to give the fans a fun fight.”
Morales won via unanimous decision and he was back on top of the world. Morales had many great wins during his long career but the win over a near-peak Pacquiao might be the very best. It doesn’t matter that Morales lost two future fights with Pacquiao, age had caught up with him by then. But when he was still within touching distance of his prime, Morales was too good for Pacquiao – a fighter many says deserves to be ranked in the top-10 of all time.
What does that say about “El Terrible?”