Lee Groves

10: Erik Morales’ greatest fights

September 12, 1998, KO 4 Junior Jones – Plaza de Toros, Tijuana, Mexico, WBC super bantamweight title

Four months after destroying former 115-pound titleholder Jose Luis Bueno in two rounds, Morales sought to make a bold statement by granting the dangerous Jones a crack at his belt. Sure, Jones was stopped by Kennedy McKinney in his last fight but he still had compiled a 34-0 record against Mexicans, including back-to-back wins over Marco Antonio Barrera. He could stand eye-to-eye with the lanky Morales and his right cross was still among the division’s most potent weapons. He also was in shape; he trained two weeks with Evander Holyfield in Atlanta, two more weeks with Pernell Whitaker in Norfolk and spent several weeks at altitude.

Morales boasted his own streak – he was 22-0 in Tijuana and passions were such that local betting was unavailable. Still, the atmosphere in the bullring was electric and it didn’t take long for the feeling-out process to turn into full contact action.

Each man took turns coming forward and firing shots, but Morales’ jab was the pivotal weapon early as he landed nearly half of them in the first. Early in round two Jones backed Morales to a corner pad and smashed a right to the jaw that briefly buckled Morales’ legs. The 22-year-old titleholder remained poised as he raised a mouse under Jones’ eye, stuffed in a flush double jab and beat him to the punch with rights.

After fighting in a disciplined manner to preserve his energy, Jones shifted into a higher gear in the fourth by coming forward and drilling in five flush power shots. Later he tried to rough-house Morales in the trenches but the champ kept his cool and more than held his own during a heated mid-ring exchange. A beautifully timed right to the side of the head wobbled Jones and a second right send him tumbling to the floor. Jones back-somersaulted to his feet and cursed himself, for he also sported a cut over his left eye.

Morales tore into Jones with both guns firing and the challenger couldn’t do much more than grab. A flush hook led to a volley of six unanswered punches that led referee Larry O’Connell to intervene at the 2:55 mark.

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