Lee Groves

10: Erik Morales’ greatest fights

October 4, 2003, KO 3 Guty Espadas Jr. II – Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

Morales’ close unanimous decision over Espadas two-and-a-half years earlier was among his most unimpressive victories – and the fighter was the first to say so. He blamed changes in his training routine – preparing in Las Vegas instead of the Mexican mountains – a poor diet and a liver ailment two weeks before the bout for his sluggish performance. For the rematch, Morales resumed the familiar patterns but was campaigning in a new weight class after his second stint as WBC featherweight king.

The winner of this title eliminator was set to meet WBC super featherweight titlist Jesus Chavez in late February. Morales felt he had something to prove to Espadas, who believed he won the first fight, as well as fans and media curious to see how he would perform at the higher weight.

Whether it was Espadas’ doing or whether Morales permitted it to happen, Espadas got the trench war he wanted in the first two rounds. The pace was hot but the punches seemed to be thrown at three-quarters speed. Espadas’ looping shots were finding a home fairly often but the tenor of the fight changed late in the second when Morales started to find his rhythm. Morales spun from the ropes and worked uppercuts with both hands while a short right caused Espadas to stumble forward. In the waning moments of the round Morales took a half-step back toward the ropes to create room, then nailed Espadas with a flush right uppercut-left uppercut to the jaw.

The fight returned to longer range in the third and Morales’ sharper, stiffer punches soon bruised the area under Espadas’ right eye. By now Morales had properly calibrated his sense of distance, for he pulled his upper body away from Espadas’ wide shots then snapped it back to deliver crisp counters. The final such move finished the fight as Morales saw his opening, executed the timing and delivered a right to the ear that folded Espadas’ legs and sent the rest of his body back-first to the floor. All Espadas could do was roll around on the canvas in search of the ropes but time ran out as referee Dr. James Jen-Kin counted “ten.”

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