Erik Morales’ decision to fight Marcos Maidana on April 9 in Las Vegas might seem crazy given the Argentine’s youth and power.
Morales, 34, didn’t enter into this agreement without forethought, though. This, he says, is the perfect fight for him for two reasons. One, he feels Maidana’s straight-forward style matches up well with his. And, two, a victory over an opponent of the Argentine's stature would allow him to reclaim his place among the best fighters.
The former three-division titleholder negotiated to fight Juan Manuel Marquez before reaching a deal with Maidana.
“I wanted a big fight,” Morales said on a conference call Wednesday, speaking through a translator. “Right now one of the biggest names is Marquez. He has had a good run lately. I felt I could come in and beat him and recoup what I once had, what I once was.
“… Like Marquez, (Maidana) has made a name for himself. He’s coming off some good wins. I can recoup some of what I had in the past by beating a big name like Maidana.”
Few observers give Morales much of a chance against Maidana.
The Mexican “retired” after losing a unanimous decision to David Diaz for a lightweight title in 2007, his fourth consecutive loss. He’s 3-0 since returning in March of last year but has fought second-tier opponents and hasn’t looked particularly good.
Maidana was honest when he was asked to assess Morales’ performances during his comeback.
“What I saw in those three fights was a fighter who is not in his prime anymore,” he said through a translator.
Morales is too seasoned and confident to be fazed by such a sentiment, which he knows is shared by most people.
The future Hall of Famer acknowledged that he wasn’t himself in his first fight back, a unanimous victory over Jose Alfaro for which he weighed a career-high 147 pounds. He weighed 143 for his KO victory over Willie Limond in September and 140 for his unanimous-decision victory over Francisco Lorenzo in December.
Morales is pleased by his progress.
“Everything was by design,” he said. “I had a game plan, I had certain goals. And I reached those goals. The first fight, I was still a little heavy. … I lost like 25 kilos (55 pounds). I didn’t feel that good. … I started feeling better each time out. The first victory was over a very tough fighter. I fought someone with a big punch by design. I wanted to see how it felt to get punched again. I passed the test.
“I feel right now I’m peaking. My body feeling better. I haven’t struggled to make weight whatsoever. I’m on weight. My speed has come back now. You’ll see a different fighter from the one in those three fights.”
Morales said the loss to Diaz was so devastating that the setback and personal problems led to depression.
He said he wanted to fight again immediately but, after so many disappointments, he “didn’t know how to go about it” and retired. Then, after an extended vacation during which he ballooned to about 200 pounds, he asked himself an important question: What makes me happy?
The answer: boxing. He started training in late 2009 for his comeback.
“Ultimately fighting is what made me happy. I love it, the big stage, the life, the fighting,” Morales said.
Morales is living the life again, a participant in a big fight on big stage, and soon will doing what he loves to do.
The experts suspect that this will be his last hurrah because of the man he chose to fight, a young (27), strong, hard-punching menace who stopped Victor Ortiz and almost knocked Amir Khan from his perch as one of the top two 140 pounders in the world. Most fear for Morales’ well being.
But what if he wins?
A one-time revered champion loses a series of fights – including two brutal knockouts against Manny Pacquiao – and calls it quits only to return after a two-plus-year break to beat one of the most-feared fighters on the planet.
That would be one of the better comeback stories in recent memory. And it’s one that Morales is certain will be told.
“This is a very, very important fight for me,” he said. “It’s even more important because he’s the favorite. I think I’m going to win this fight; I know I can win this fight. Remember that I chose Maidana. I think I’m technically a lot better than he is.
“… No one gives me a chance to win. That’s great. So if I win, you should give me all the credit in the world.”