Lee Groves

10: Erik Morales’ greatest fights

October 22, 1999, W 12 Wayne McCullough – Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, WBC super bantamweight title

Three months after dispatching Reynante Jamili in six rounds, Morales signed to fight McCullough on the undercard of Naseem Hamed-Cesar Soto in the hopes of creating interest in a future match with the “Prince,” who later won a 12-round decision.

Although McCullough lost to Hamed two fights earlier, “The Pocket Rocket” still presented a formidable style challenge. His all-heart high-volume attack often choked the life from ill-prepared opponents and Morales’ difficulties with making 122 were well-known. Plus, McCullough’s iron chin was a mortal threat to Morales’ perfect 8-0 (8 KOs) record in championship fights. In other words, McCullough was a human truth machine, for he would prove whether Morales was a star-in-the-making or one that would supernova under intense pressure.

McCullough jumped on the slow-starting Morales and won the first with several strong rights. Any doubts about Morales’ worth were answered from the second round forward as he nearly duplicated McCullough’s breakneck pace (he ended up throwing just 12 fewer punches) and far surpassed him in punch impact. Morales often used thumping body shots to set up power combinations that forced McCullough to briefly retreat. Morales opened cuts under McCullough’s right eye in the fourth, his left ear in the sixth and the left eye in the 11th after a series of strafing head shots. Morales ended that round with a right to the temple and a left uppercut to the chin that wobbled McCullough ever-so-briefly, breaking news given McCullough’s legendary toughness.

The 12th was a testament to both men’s character, intensity and durability as they freely swapped blows at an unfathomable pace given the demands of the previous 33 minutes. In the end, Morales’ harder punches and far superior accuracy earned him a comprehensive, if not completely comfortable, decision win.

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