Erik Morales vs. Marcos Maidana
April 9, 2010, Las Vegas, Nev.
The main event
Comment: This one had everything fight fans desire in a high-profile matchup — both participants giving their all while fighting through adversity, sustained action, ebbs and flows in momentum, drama, and surprises. The biggest surprise, of course, was that Morales wasn’t blown out by Maidana, which is what most fans and boxing media predicted. It looked like that outcome was imminent after Morales took a beating in the first round and returned to his corner with a nearly shut right eye, but the Mexican legend gradually worked himself into the fight and recaptured enough of his old “El Terrible” form to give Maidana, a near 7-to-1 favorite, a run for his money while giving fans who bought the much-maligned pay-per-view show their money’s worth in entertainment.
Comment: You gotta give the future hall of famer an ‘A’ just for effort. He wasn’t expected to make it to the middle rounds against Maidana but he battled out the distance with the punishing young contender and he did it with one eye. One could say his performance was “Rocky-esque” but Morales possesses too much skill and technique to be compared to Sylvester Stallone’s fictional underdog. Morales exhibited as much veteran ring savvy as he did heart. That shouldn’t be overlooked. He was caught with his share of punches, especially along the ropes, but he also blocked, rolled with, and twisted away from a lot of Maidana’s shots before retaliating with beautiful, accurate counter punches.
Comment: Maidana was as relentless as many boxing pundits who were concerned for Morales’ health feared he would be but he was also as raw as the former three-division champ said he was. The Argentine’s footwork is horrible. He constantly stepped out of balance as he tried to overwhelm Morales with sheer aggression and volume punching. How did this guy stop 27 out of 29 opponents without knowing how to plant his feet correctly? He’s basically been clubbing good fighters into submission with arm punches. If he had Morales’ technique he’d be a one-punch KO artist for sure. However, technical flaws aside, Maidana did what he had to do to overcome a truly great fighter who was trying his best to turn back the clock. He set a fast pace and he outworked the older man, which is what the young lion is supposed to do with the old lion.
Jose Morales, Morales’ father
Comment: The father and trainer did a lousy job controlling the swelling over his son’s right eye, but he told his fighter the truth after the first four rounds of the bout — he told Morales that he was losing the fight and then he told him to get going, which exactly what needed to be done at that exact moment. Morales, a former fighter himself, had the right mix of telling-it-like-it-is during the first half of the bout and motivational cheer leading down the stretch.
Rudy Perez, Maidana’s trainer
Comment: Perez, best known for guiding Marco Antonio Barrera throughout his hall of fame career, is used to training smarter fighters than Maidana, so one can almost forgive him for losing his composure during the middle rounds of the bout when Morales made his improbable surge. However, as intelligent as the diminutive Mexican coach is, he should have had more strategic advice for Maidana. But as it turned out, his constant yelling and pleading for more activity was all that was needed for his fighter to win a decision.
Comment: The judges had some head-scratching scores on a couple of the preliminary undercard bouts, but they got it right in the main event, although most hardcore fans wish they would have given the Mexican legend the benefit of the doubt in a few of the closer rounds. In truth, Dick Houck’s 114-114 draw verdict did just that. Could Jerry Roth and Adalaide Byrd’s 116-112 cards for Maidana been a tad closer, say 115-113? Sure, but eight rounds to four was not out of line. Maidana soundly outworked Morales throughout the fight and though his punch-connect ratio paled in comparison to the future hall of famer’s, one must keep in mind the tremendous impact — which the official judges, who sit along the ring apron, are keenly aware of — that every one of the Argentine’s shots carried.
Comment: After his somewhat awkward pre-fight instructions in Spanish, Tony Weeks made sure to stay out of the spotlight and let Morales and Maidana do what they do best — fight. The mark of a good referee is when fans forget he's in the ring until he absolutely has to get involved. That was Weeks on Saturday.
Comment: The turnout of just-over 7,000 fans was a little disappointing to Golden Boy Promotions, which pushed and publicized the stacked card hard, however, given the economy — and the fact that a lot of hardcore fans are saving their Vegas trip for the Pacquiao-Mosley card — the attendance in the MGM Grand’s Garden Arena wasn’t bad at all. Plus, the main event gave the crowd reason to cheer as loud as 14,000.
Comment: The only thing keeping the pay-per-view portion of the Morales-Maidana undercard from earning an ‘A’ was the fact that the Robert Guerrero-Michael Katsidis and Paul Malignaggi-Jose Cotto fights were basically one-sided bouts. Guerrero battered and outclassed Katsidis to a 12-round unanimous decision. Malignaggi was too fast, too busy and too athletic for Cotto, who lost a 10-round unanimous decision to the colorful New Yorker. However, both fights were still entertaining. Katsidis absorbed an inhuman amount of punishment but he never surrendered or ceased trying to win. Cotto, the older brother Miguel Cotto, rocked Malignaggi with a left hook in the opening round, and although the speedy former 140-pound titleholder found his rhythm by the third round of the bout, the heavy handed Puerto Rican remained dangerous. Sandwiched by the two distance fights was an absolute shocker: Nobuhiro Ishida’s first-round TKO of James Kirkland. The undefeated southpaw mauler was a huge favorite over the 35-year-old Japanese veteran. It wasn’t a question if Kirkland would win but what round he would fold the beanpole middleweight in half. However, Ishida was well prepared for his opportunity and prior to the fight he vowed to spring the upset in memory of the thousands who have died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that hit his homeland last month. He made good on his promise with three knockdowns that were so unexpected they were surreal. Ishida’s grandfather weeping tears of joy at ringside while the foreign underdog soaked in the crowd’s warm ovation was one of those scenes that make boxing special.