Lee Groves

10: Erik Morales’ greatest fights

February 28, 2004, W 12 Jesus Chavez – MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, WBC super featherweight title

For Chavez the real prize in this fight was not his WBC belt but rather Morales’ reputation and star power. The two-fisted pressure fighter had won 40 of 42 fights but remained in the shadows as far as mainstream recognition and drawing power. He knew that a victory over Morales on HBO’s airwaves would dramatically enhance the trajectory of his career – and his life.

For Morales, this fight meant history. Julio Cesar Chavez was the only Mexican to this point to capture three divisional championships and, true to form, Morales wanted to achieve his goal by fighting the roughest, toughest titlist he could find. Chavez’s 100-punch-per-round pace presented a suitable challenge, and, he believed, a fitting canvas for his skills.

Chavez, a notorious slow starter, zoomed out of his corner and found instant success. A hook stunned Morales and an overhand right-left hook combo shook “El Terrible” to his core midway through the first. Somehow, Morales pulled himself together and even produced a stirring rally in the final 60 seconds.

Morales exacted vengeance in the second by scoring two knockdowns, the first with a scorching right uppercut and the second with powerful combinations. The next three rounds saw Morales at his best. He negated Chavez’s aggression with hard jabs and crisp power shots at close range. He seemed almost eager to trade in the trenches, which was a good attitude to have since Chavez never stopped coming, even after pulling a muscle in his right shoulder.

From the sixth round forward Chavez attempted less than a dozen right hands but his pressure and volume was so robust that he forced Morales to fight at full strength. Though Chavez kept the fight interesting it was Morales who banked the rounds with his sharper punches and superior technique. In the end Morales was deemed a convincing 118-110, 117-109, 115-112 winner – and the newest member of a two-man club.

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