After losing a close decision to David Diaz Saturday night, Erik “El Terrible” Morales has thrown in the towel on a long and distinguished boxing career. Fighting for the WBC lightweight title, Morales and Diaz fought a very close fight, with Diaz (31-1-1, 17 KOs) coming away with a unanimous decision (114-113, 115-113, 115-112). Morales (48-6, 34 KOs) was attempting to become the first Mexican fighter to win belts in four weight classes, but it was not to be. After the fight, he announced his retirement at just 30-years-old. “Definitely, you are not going to see me in the ring again,” he said. “This is it. I’m not going to fight anymore. I’ve taken too many punches, particularly to the head area.”
This is definitely a sad moment for boxing, as Morales has been a part of so many memorable fights over the years. Two of his three legendary fights with Marco Antonio Barrera were named Fight of the Year – Part I in 2000 and Part III in 2004 – and his first two battles with Manny Pacquiao were amazing as well. In 2000 the fifth round of the Barrera fight was also named Round of the Year, as was the 10th round of their 2004 fight. Their first bout is considered by one of the greatest fights of all-time, up there with Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo’s first fight, from 2005.
Morales was the epitome of what Mexican fighters are known for. He grew up amidst the extreme poverty of a Tijuana ghetto, and sprouted to become one of the most popular and crowd-pleasing fighters of his era. He, much like other Mexican fighters – Barrera and Julio Cesar Chavez come to mind – never shied away from a brawl. He used accuracy, relentless pressure, an iron jaw and a devastating overhand right, as well as body punching to dominate his way to a 41-0 record before losing his second bout with Barrera. He won titles at Bantamweight (122), Featherweight (126), Super Featherweight/Junior Lightweight (130). In his career he beat the likes of Daniel Zaragoza, Kevin Kelley, Wayne McCullough, Injin Chi and Paulie Ayala, along with Barrera and Pacquiao. Of his six losses, four were decisions, and two were knockout losses to Pacquiao (second and third fights with him). None of his decision losses were clear defeats, all were close.
Morales never backed down from a fight. When he faced Pacquiao for the first time, he was ahead on the cards heading into the 12th round. His corner urged him to box, stay away and not risk being knocked out. Morales went out and (foolishly or not) stood toe-to-toe with Pacquiao in one of the best and most brutal rounds of boxing anyone has ever seen. He switched to a southpaw stance to gain more power on his punches, but at the same time he exposed himself to Pacquiao’s devastating left hand. The two proceeded to literally unload on each other at the center of the ring, bringing the crowd to its feet yet again. It was what boxing was meant to be and it brought the following poetic line out of Jim Lampley, “There is nowhere else in sport where you’ll find greater passion, greater intensity, greater courage, greater commitment, greater sheer guts than what these two guys are showing. This is boxing at its best.” To say that scene gave me chills would not do it justice. It was amazing, simply amazing. Here’s video of that round (sorry for the poor quality, I couldn’t find a better one).
It was those moments that made Morales what he was. He never backed down, never begged off and never gave up. He was always willing to brawl, always willing to be cut, bruised and battered, but underneath that tough exterior was a calculated, cunning fighter. It’s sad for boxing that he will be gone, but his fans all have to be happy that he is walking away now, after 54 fights, despite his youth. He knows that if he stays any longer, he could risk serious damage to his health. He’s simply been in too many wars, against fighters of amazing quality. We will miss “El Terrible” because he’s given so much of himself to the sport and its fans. We’d just like to say thank you to Erik Morales for thrilling us time and again. Below is a collection of highlights from his spectacular career.