Though many are calling for Erik Morales to retire, the 36-year-old Mexican legend is confident going into his rematch with RING/WBC/WBA 140-pound champ Danny Garcia on Saturday at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Erik Morales sat in the front row of Thursday’s press conference clad in a blue tracksuit with white stripes.
At 36 years old, he’s on the precipice of another big fight, a return bout against RING junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia on Saturday at Barclays Center (9 p.m. ET, Showtime).
He yawned, perhaps a signal of his time in the twilight of his storied career. He laughed while Garcia’s outspoken father Angel hurled barbs at him. He appeared unfazed up there – he’s seen it all.
So after losing a clear decision in March to Garcia, 24, why opt for a rematch when his legacy in the sport already secured? What motives “El Terrible” to trudge on in an unforgiving sport where so much sacrifice is necessary, where the public asks so much of a fighter, even one as legendary as Morales?
“Many of you question me, and I see it in your eyes,” said Morales with a cold, blank stare. “Am I continuing because of economic status? And I tell you no, it’s not for money. Others might ask if I don’t leave boxing because there is a resistance to leave it. I tell them no as well. We have the retirement planned out and it’s going to be soon. [But while I’m fighting] I’m going to do it well, do it right, with respect to the opponent. I’m going to do my job with dignity in the proper way.”
The last man to clearly defeat Manny Pacquiao, Morales (52-8, 36 knockouts) is best known for his trilogy with Marco Antonio Barrera. He’s been widely-celebrated for his fighting spirit and his ability to find ways to win in the most grueling battles. But all the wars have had a toll on his career. From Nov. 2004 to Aug. 2007, Morales lost five of six bouts and announced his retirement after a decision loss to David Diaz.
But after just two-and-a-half years away from the squared-circle, Morales felt the itch and returned. He strung together three wins against sub-par opposition before facing-off against Marcos Maidana as a heavy underdog, giving power-hitting junior welterweight contender a hard fight in a losing effort, but gaining the respect of everyone who said he was finished as a prizefighter.
After defeating Pablo Cesar Cano to claim a dubiously vacant title and become the first Mexican to win titles in four weight classes, he signed to fight Garcia (24-0, 15 knockouts) in January on HBO. However, Morales was forced to withdraw due to gall bladder surgery, rescheduling the bout for less than two months later. Morales was game but was outclassed, even dropped by Garcia in the 11thround. There really was no need for a rematch after such a clear loss – what would be different this time around? But Morales has shown the boxing public time and again that he simply can’t be counted out.
“We’ll be waiting as always for the great Mexican warrior, my son Erik Morales, to put on a great show
Saturday night,” said Morales’ father and trainer Jose Morales. “You know he [always] gives 100 percent. He’ll do it Saturday night and regain his titles again.”
Morales is confident he will make adjustments this time and will show up a better fighter. But with an 0-4 record in return bouts with Pacquiao and Barrera, it would the first rematch victory of his career.
“You’re going to see an Erik very different from the first fight,” said Morales, who missed the 140-pound limit by two pounds for the first fight. “I’m going to show more speed, more consistency, more resistance. All the preparations were totally different. I’m going to try to forget the past. What matters is this Saturday. I don’t like to give excuses. This fight is going to be different.”
Morales scoffed at Garcia’s notion that he gave Morales too much respect in the first fight, that he’ll stop Morales in five rounds or less this time.
“When you’re a fighter, you can’t say you respect your opponent too much or too little,” said Morales. “You just do your job, you just go in there and do it. You don’t bring it up. He can’t do more, he doesn’t know more.
“He gets scared in the ring: Limited combinations, limited skill level. Most of all he gets frightened and he doesn’t have the confidence in himself. There’s no reason he should even be touching me.”
Angel Garcia’s disrespectful banter, where he vehemently cursed in Spanish at both Morales and his father, didn’t get under the skin of THE RING’s No. 6-rated junior welterweight; he actually sees it as weakness.
“It’s huge insecurity from his father,” Morales proclaimed. “He wants to be the star, the center of focus. I assure you that they’re very scared. I know what I have to do this Saturday and I’m ready. I [told him] I’m going to knock him out in front of his son.”
Whether Morales avenges his defeat to Garcia on Saturday or not, he’ll go down as an all-time great. A win in Brooklyn would be the icing on the cake of a Hall of Fame career.
“[This fight] will be different,” Morales exclaimed. “I can guarantee you I’m going to impress you all.”
The old boxing adage says that “every great fighter has one great fight left in them”. Does Morales have one left in him?
Photo / Alex Trautwig-Getty Images
Mike Coppinger is a boxing contributor for USA TODAY. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger. Write to him: firstname.lastname@example.org.