Marcos Maidana knows he won’t be facing the best version of Erik Morales when he fights the Mexican legend on April 9 in Las Vegas.
The 27-year-old junior welterweight contender knows that he’s the younger, bigger, stronger and harder-punching fighter in the 140-pound matchup that will headline an HBO Pay-Per-View show from the MGM Grand.
However, Maidana (29-2, 27 knockouts) is not underestimating the faded 34-year-old veteran, who began his career at 122 pounds. The Argentine slugger says he’s training hard and plans to bring his A-game against Morales, even though the former three-division titleholder has not looked sharp in three comeback bouts that followed a 2½-year retirement.
“I saw the (comeback) fights, and basically, he looked like a fighter who was retired for two years,” Maidana said through translator Eric Gomez during a media call on Wednesday. “From what I saw, he’s not in his prime anymore. I am in my prime, and that’s going to be the difference in the fight.”
Obviously, Maidana is a realist. He doesn’t believe Morales can miraculously turn back the clock and fight as he did five or 10 years ago, but he knows the Mexican has experience, skill and an all-time great heart that could pose a threat if he’s not at his best.
“I talked it over with my new trainer, Rudy Perez, who’s very familiar with Erik Morales,” Maidana said. “We noticed the speed is not the same, the reflexes are not the same, but I don’t want to let my guard down. I’m training like I’m going to fight the prime Morales, the Morales of old. I want to be ready for the best possible version of Erik Morales.”
Nobody is sure what the best possible version of Morales will look like at this stage of the future hall of famer’s career. Morales (51-6, 35 KOs) looked OK in his 2010 comeback fights against Jose Alfaro, Willie Limond, and Francisco Lorenzo.
However, that tough-but-mid-level opposition was not formidable enough to reveal how much Morales has left after two decades of professional boxing and four consecutive losses (including back-to-back stoppages to Manny Pacquiao) from late 2005 to late ’07.
Everybody knows Maidana is formidable enough to expose Morales’ age, wear and tear, and lack of size. Maidana has made a name for himself in the U.S. by brutally overwhelming young up-and-comers Victor Ortiz and Victor Cayo, and by nearly toppling talented titleholder Amir Khan in a hotly contested points loss that was named the Fight of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Some fans and members of the media are concerned about Morales’ well being against such a relentless power puncher. Maidana doesn’t share their concern.
“I’m not worried at all,” he said. “I was very happy when I got the call for this fight. He’s a big name. We all know he’s at the tail end of his career but I know it’s still going to be a tough fight.”
The bottom line for Maidana is the name recognition that Morales has earned over the years with too many ring wars to mention. He believes a victory over the Mexican warrior will add to his own growing legacy.
“Obviously, (a victory is) going to help my career tremendously,” Maidana said. “Fighting a guy with a big name like Erik Morales gives me more notoriety, more fame in the U.S. It’s a big step in my career.”
From Maidana’s perspective a victory over Morales means more than his fine showings against fellow young guns, such as Khan, Ortiz, and Cayo. And it doesn’t seem to bother him that many fans will refuse to give him credit for beating Morales because the veteran is past his prime.
“I’m not sure about getting credit, that’s not up to me to say,” Maidana said. “I train to win, whether it’s a hard fight or an easy fight. (The perception of the fight being easy) doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t change me.
“The important thing to me is to get ready to beat a good fighter. Erik Morales is a good fighter, he’s a good boxer. It’s not going to be an easy fight. I don’t underestimate anybody. Anything can happen in the ring.”
Believing that golden rule of boxing, Maidana says fans can expect his usual take-no-prisoners style of fighting on April 9, although he claims that he won’t be looking for the knockout.
“There’s no pressure to knock him out,” Maidana said. “You’re going to see the same Maidana you see in all of my fights. I’m going to try to knock him him out but if not, I’ll go on to win a decision.
“I’m going to come out guns blazing. If he can take it, great. If not, good night.”