But during a national conference call on Wednesday to promote his upcoming clash with hard-punching Lucas Matthysse, the aging fighter found himself defending his right to be in such a high-profile matchup.
“People always say, ‘Oh, Erik Morales is old,’ and I hear it,” said Morales, speaking through a translator. “The one thing that’s true is that when you do things right and you don’t cut corners, things come out [well.] The result is there and you’ll see it Sept. 17.”
Morales-Matthysse was sanctioned as a title fight after the WBC stripped Tim Bradley (27-0, 11 knockouts) of its belt.
The winner of Morales-Matthysse might face WBA and IBF titleholder Amir Khan (26-1, 18 KOs) in December. Khan, Morales and Matthysse are all handled by Golden Boy Promotions.
Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) is trying to become become the first Mexican to win a title in a fourth weight division.
“I think that it’s OK that they [WBC officials] are giving me this opportunity because of my past, and my history and my past fights. I think think that it’s a valid [decision,]” said Morales, 34.
“Basically, if there is concern or people are criticizing me, you know, I won’t get upset. I just take it as it comes.”
Some in the boxing community criticized the WBC’s decision to bestow title-fight status on Morales-Matthysse. Among the detractors is Barry Hunter, the manager and trainer of the IBF’s No. 1 contender, Lamont Peterson (29-1-1, 14 KOs).
Hunter resents the fact that the winner of Morales-Matthysse could leap-frog Peterson for a shot at Khan.
“If you look at this thing going on with Morales, I mean, come on,” said Hunter. “We know that’s a bunch of garbage and that there’s a lot of politics involved.”
Morales is perhaps recognized most for his clashes with Barrera (66-7, 43 KOs), having lost twice in a trilogy that rivals the greatest of all time.
Five months after falling to Barrera for the second time, Morales out-pointed Pacquiao in March 2005.
But Morales lost his next four fights after that, culminating with a decision against David Diaz in his junior welterweight debut in August 2007.
“I’ve had very tough fights. I’ve had everything happen in the ring. But there’s one thing for sure is that in every fight, I always give it 100 percent,” said Morales.
“I’m always there to fight for the fans. And for this next fight [against Matthysse] there is not going to be an exception.”
Morales ended a 31-month ring absence with a unanimous decision over Jose Alfaro in March of last year, his first of three straight victories. Morales then lost a disputed majority decision in April to Marcos Maidana, a fight many ringsiders thought Morales won.
“The odds were 7 to 1 against me, and everybody thought that I was going to get smashed and walked over,” said Morales. “But I was always motivated, and I always knew in my mind what I had to do to win it.”
Against Matthysse, however, Morales plans to pick up where he left off against Maidana.
“We’ve always liked challenges. We’ve always liked difficult fights. That’s the reason the Matthysse fight was decided on. He’s a very strong, very formidable opponent,” said Morales.
“You know, people have always thought that they’re going to finish me and end my career and knock me out. But that’s what gives me the hunger, the strength and the motivation to prove them wrong.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com