The proverbial battle of age versus youth takes center stage on Saturday night, when THE RING’s No. 5-rated junior welterweight Erik Morales, of Mexico, defends his WBC belt against the magazine’s No. 7-rated 140-pound contender Danny Garcia, of Philadelphia, in an HBO-televised main event from The Reliant Center in Houston, Texas.
The 35-year-old Morales (52-7, 36 knockouts) is the last man to defeat Manny Pacquiao, having done so by unanimous decision on March 20, 2005 — one day prior to Garcia’s 17th birthday.
Morales, of Tijuana, is perhaps most recognized for his clashes with fellow Mexican and three-division titlewinner Marco Antonio Barrera (66-7, 43 KOs), of Mexico City, having lost twice in a trilogy that ranks among the greatest of all time.
Morales has won four belts over as many different weight classes, the first Mexican to do so. Morales is coming off September’s 10th-round TKO over the previously unbeaten 21-year-old prospect, Pablo Cesar Cano, of Mexico City, becoming the first Mexican fighter to win a crown in a fourth weight class.
Morales take on a man 11 years in junior in Garcia (22-0, 14 KOs), who turned 24 on March 20. Morales does so in the wake of having endured gall bladder surgery in December that forced him to withdraw from his initially scheduled match up with Garcia from Jan. 28 until Saturday.
Considered a spent bullet following back-to-back TKO losses to Pacquiao 2006 in the 10th, and, third rounds, respectively, Morales was thought to be completely shot after dropping a decision to David Diaz in ‘07.
The loss to Diaz was the fourth straight for Morales after having vanquished Pacquiao, but Morales ended a 31-month ring absence with a unanimous decision over Jose Alfaro in March of 2010, one of four triumphs in his past five fights.
In April of last year, his right eye completely closed after a contentious first round, Morales lost a disputed majority decision to hard-hitting Marcos Maidana, a fight that most ringsiders thought he had won.
But in keeping pace with Maidana, Morales nearly handled a man who had once risen from three knockdowns to stop Victor Ortiz in six rounds in 2009, and who rose from a first-round knockdown to nearly stop Amir Khan in the 10th of a unanimous decision loss in the December, 2010 Boxing Writers Association of America Fight of The Year.
But Morales has likely been involved in more 12-round slugfests than any other active fighter, and he’s facing a fighter who has scored consecutive decisions over ex-world titleholders, Nate Campbell, and, Kendall Holt in April and October, respectively.
Can Morales summon, yet another heroic effort, or will father time — and Garcia’s youthful agression, skills and punching power — spell the end of an otherwise Hall of Fame career?
RingTV.com gathered the opinions of 18 knowledgeable observers as to what they believe will transpire on Saturday night.
Erik Morales W 12 Danny Garcia: Danny Garcia is raw and has not really beaten anyone of note, taking a big step-up in class for this fight with the Mexican legend. Garcia hasn’t really impressed thus far. And while talented, will be up against with a wily veteran the likes of Erik Morales.
Morales was thought to be shot but rejuvenated his career with his shocking performance against Maidana. I expect Morales to outgun Garcia over 12 rounds, winning the battles on the inside for a close but clear points victory.
Danny Garcia W 12 Erik Morales: Erik Morales could defy us all again against Danny Garcia. I saw Garcia against Nate Campbell from ringside, and in a messy fight, Garcia labored. It caused speculation that he was not at the elite level. Then Garcia performed with more all-round pizzazz against Kendall Holt.
Morales looked to have aged before, but his movement and timing against Marcos Maidana proved many of us wrong – and that there was still cash in the register. Unless Morales ages drastically in this fight, he could out-sly Garcia. But I’m going for the younger man — by more than a decade — to win on points in a tough encounter. Points victory for Garcia.
Danny Garcia UD-12 Erik Morales: Erik Morales’ comeback has been nothing short of inspiring, and magnificent to watch. However, we have to admit that Marcos Maidana and Pablo Cesar Cano were two good styles for him to match up against at this point in his career.
As much as Maidana was a dangerous pick — considering Morales’ perceived health at the time — he is also a crude stalker who will be hit by straight shots. As for Cano, he was a late replacement who just hadn’t seen an operator of El Terrible’s level yet.
Those guys were good for him because they weren’t fast, and they came to him. Danny Garcia has fast hands, and is patient. Sometimes frustratingly patient. I think Garcia waits, picks his shots and stays on the outside. Morales just won’t be able to do enough to get the nod in what will probably be an underwhelming fight.
Erik Morales UD 12 Danny Garcia: I’m going with old man. It’s a tough pick because we all have to wonder how many times Erik Morales can go to the well. But I think he’s a better technical fighter than Danny Garcia.
I believe he’s got enough left in his battle-worn body to use his experience to gradually take over the bout. It won’t be an easy fight. Garica has youth, athleticism and power on his side.
And the young man will use these advantages well in the early rounds by utilizing a stick-move-and-counter punch strategy. He will score points and bust Morales up even as he moves away from the veteran.
However, the young challenger will find that Morales can match his jab, and by the middle rounds, El Terrible will time straight rights between Garcia’s somewhat wide hooks and crosses.
Morales’ face might be a mess by the eighth round, but he will punish Garcia with one-two combinations, uppercuts and body shots down the stretch to a close unanimous decision.
Danny Garcia, UD 12 Erik Morales: It’s tough to pick against Erik Morales, mostly because it’s impossible not to admire him. Morales’ resilience has won over those who were skeptical of his comeback. That resilience will test Danny Garcia. But it won’t beat him. Garcia celebrated his 24th birthday Tuesday.
His youth is complemented by a powerful left hand and speed. Morales’ tactical skill will surprise and perhaps confuse Garcia in the early rounds. But speed will buy Garcia time and allow him to adjust against the tiring Morales, who will be there in the end, yet unable to overcome a younger man’s blend of speed and power.
Danny Garcia UD 12 Erik Morales: Erik Morales will counter punch Danny Garcia and have his moments, but I believe youth will prevail in this match. The fight will go the distance, and Garcia wins by a close but unanimous decision.
Erik Morales UD 12 Danny Garcia: I’ve got Erik Morales by decision. I think that he’s just going to use all of his experience that he knows and that it’s going to be a good learning experience for Danny Garcia. Garcia will be fighting at that championship level for years to come.
But I just think that right now, where Morales is at, that’s going to be just enough to get by. That’s going to be just enough experience and craftiness to get by a guy like Danny Garcia.