The double-header featuring WBC 140-pound beltholder Erik Morales, of Mexico, against Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia on Jan. 28 on HBO, and THE RING’s No. 5-rated junior middleweight Carlos Molina opposite RING No. 6-rated counterpart James Kirkland represents a risk for all involved.
“These are dangerous fights for all four guys, but that is exactly what boxing is about. I think that the card is explosive. It’s dynamite,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer of fights that will happen at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Tex. “It is situation where styles making fights. I think that these guys are perfectly made for each other.”
The 35-year-old Morales (52-7, 36 KOs), THE RING No. 7-rated junior welterweight, has won four belts over as many different weight classes, the first Mexican to do so.
But Morales is facing a young lion in the 23-year-old Garcia (22-0, 14 KOs), who is rated No. 9 by THE RING and coming off a unanimous decision over former titleholder Kendall Holt in October.
“With Danny Garcia, you have a strong, young guy,” said Schaefer, “and with Erik Morales, you have one of the most experienced fighters who has clearly turned back the clock.”
Morales is coming off September’s 10th-round TKO over the previously unbeaten 21-year-old Pablo Cesar Cano (22-1-1, 17 KOs) of Mexico City to become the first Mexican fighter to win a crown in a fourth weight class.
Morales entered the match-up as 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 retired in August of 2007 after losing his fourth straight fight by unanimous decision to David Diaz in a failed bid to earn the WBC lightweight title.
But since returning to the sport in March of last year, Morales has won four of five bouts. Coming into the fight against Cano, Morales was coming off April’s disputed majority decision loss to hard-hitting Marcos Maidana (31-2, 28 KOs), a fight that most ringsiders thought he had won.
“We have seen in his fight against Maidana that Erik Morales is back. For him to take on a young, talented fighter like Danny Garcia is just showing you all that Erik Morales is made of,” said Schaefer.
“The way that he looks at Danny Garcia is that he thinks that he’s very mechanical and he thinks that he obviously has the experience and the elusive style to beat Garcia. He saw him fight against Kendall Holt, so we’re exited that this fight has been made.”
Morales is perhaps most recognized for his battles with Barrera (66-7, 43 KOs), of Mexico City, having lost twice in a trilogy that ranks among the greatest of all time.
Morales is also the last man to defeat eight-division and current WBO welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KOs), doing so by out-pointing him in five months after falling to Barrera for the second time in March 2005.
“For Danny Garcia, it’s an amazing opportunity. Danny jumped at the opportunity, and he’s excited about it,” said Schaefer. “He told us that he’s going to take advantage of this opportunity. That’s what he’s been waiting for.”
Kirkland (30-1, 27 KOs), THE RING’s No. 6-rated junior middleweight, is coming off an HBO-televised sixth-round knockout of Alfredo Angulo (20-2, 17 KOs) in Cancun, Mexico, on Nov. 5.
Kirkland’s victory over Angulo (20-2, 17 KOs) was accomplished just two fights removed from his lone defeat — April’s first-round knockout to Nobuhiro Ishida, who entered their bout with a mark of 26-6-2 and only seven knockouts.
Before facing Ishida, Kirkland had scored consecutive first- and second-round stoppages over Ahsandi Gibbs and Jhon Berrio within 13 days of each other in March.
But after Ishida dropped Kirkland three times on the way to a shocking first-round stoppage win, Kirkland reunited with Wolfe and reeled off consecutive knockouts over Dennis Sharpe and Alexis Hloros in the first and second rounds in June and July.
That set him up for the Angulo fight.
“For James Kirkland, a lot of people thought that he was finished after he lost to Ishida. But we brought him back quickly, had him fight several times, and as you saw in his last performance against Alfredo Angulo, James Kirkland is back,” said Schaefer.
“Not only is he back with Ann Wolfe, but he’s a big threat in the 154-pound weight class. But with Carlos Molina, he’s taking on somebody who is coming off some of his biggest wins of his career in his last few fights.”
Molina (19-4-2, 6 KOs) has an unbeaten streak of 11-0-1 with two knockouts that includes having sandwiched a victory over two-time welterweight beltwinner Kermit Cintron (33-5-1, 28 KOs) in July and a draw with then-unbeaten southpaw Erislandy Lara (15-1-1, 10 KOs) in March around a seventh-round stoppage of Allen Conyers in April.
The run also includes a unanimous decision over welterweight contender Ed Paredes (27-3-1, 17 KOs) in April of 2009. Early on, Molina battled through a draw, and, a six-round majority decision loss to current WBC middleweight beltholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (43-0-1, 30 KOs) in December of 2005 and 2006, respectively.
“Molina feels that this is the right fight for him,” said Schaefer. “But James Kirkland is one of the most exciting fighters in any weight class, and to pair him up with Carlos Molina, as I said, it’s going to be an explosive fight and an explosive night.”
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com