LAS VEGAS — After losing his fourth straight fight by unanimous decision to David Diaz in a failed bid to earn the WBC lightweight title in August of 2007, three-division beltwinner Erik Morales, of Tijuana, Mex., complained to his promoter Bob Arum of a ringing inside of his head whenever he was punched.
“Erik says, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Every time I get hit, there’s a ringing in my head,’” said Arum, CEO of Top Rank Inc., during an interview in March.
“And I said, ‘Erik, you’ve got to retire, and I want you to retire now.’ And he retired at the press conference” after losing to Diaz.
But the 34-year-old Morales (51-7, 35 KOs will be back in the ring against 21-year-old Pablo Cesar Cano (22-0-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday night in an HBO Pay Per View televised bout at the MGM Grand Hotel.
Morales-Cano is for the WBC’s vacant junior welterweight belt on the under card of a main event featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. (41-0, 25 KOs) against WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs).
One of five Mexican fighters to have earned title belts in three divisions, along with Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Fernando Montiel, Morales can become the first of his countrymen to earn a fourth crown in as many divisions.
Morales’ father and trainer, Jose Morales, assures that his son is alright, even as he balances his role with concern about his child’s well-being.
“I am one of the ones that has said, ‘Erik is my son, and I want him to retire. Erik’s been one to regard his health very seriously. Outside of the commission medicals, to get licensed, he’ll do studies, he’ll do other medical exams. He’ll do neurological exams. Heart exams. He makes sure that his conditioning is fine,” said Jose Morales.
“Now, outside of that, I’ve also asked him, ‘Erik, how do you feel?’ He says that he feels great. But like I have said, outside of feeling great, we’ve gone and had extra studies done, and they’ve all come out perfectly fine. So physically, mentally and everything, he is fine.”
Morales said that his fans do not have to worry about his health.
“I have too much respect for the fans, and I have too much respect for myself. When I go into this fight, I will go in after having trained hard,” said Morales. “When I’m in the ring, you will see by my performance that I am healthy, and that speaks for itself.”
Morales’ assertion that he is out of harm’s way is supported by Golden Boy Promotions’ CEO Richard Schaefer, who said Morales’ neurological exams have checked out normal.
“I think that Erik has absolutely answered those questions, and that he has obviously as well undergone some rigorous testing and everything came back good and perfect. So, he’s ready to go and to make history and to win another world title.”
Since unretiring in March of last year, Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) has won three of four bouts, ending with April’s disputed majority decision to hard-hitting Marcos Maidana (30-2, 27 KOs), a fight that most ringsiders thought he had won.
Against Maidana, said Jose Morales, Erik Morales fought with a youthful vigor, even to the point of not backing down to the younger Maidana during exchanges.
“As you know, Erik’s always has been one of those fighters who is going to go out there and fight for his fans, and he wants to give them 100 percent,” said Jose Morales. “So that’s who you’re going to get at all times, is him going hard and never backing down. And sometimes, that means that he’s going to be getting into wars.”
Morales’ losing streak had begun with a setback against Zahir Raheem at 135 pounds after having unanimously decisioned current eight-division titlist and WBO welterweight beltholder Manny Pacquiao in March of that same year.
The losing skid had included being stopped in the 10th, and, third round, respectively, by Pacquiao in January and November of 2006.
“I think that it did Erik Morales well to take some time off and to let his body rest,” said Schaefer. “I think that he’s come back bigger, better and stronger, and I think that that’s what he showed in the Maidana fight.”
Jose Morales would love nothing more than to watch his son make history on Saturday night.
“Of course, winning the fourth title would be beautiful. But just how great he will be if he wins a fourth title, you know, that answer can only come from the fans. They’ve always shown support, and he’s always fought for them. They come and see him fight and they love him,” said Jose Morales.
“Like I have said before, I am one of the ones who has said that Erik should retire. But retiring with the fourth belt would be something very, very special and that’s something that obviously has not been accomplished. But whether or not he is truly the best? That’s left up to the fans.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com