Erik Morales, 52-7, 36 KO’s, is the last man to have defeated Manny Pacquiao. In 2005, he pulled off a unanimous decision victory in a super featherweight showdown. He was on top of the sport, but his career would soon crumble when he lost unexpectedly and convincingly to Zahir Raheem. He would then be knocked out twice in rematches with Manny Pacquiao (KO-10, KO-3). A loss to David Diaz would make it 4 defeats in a row and an announced retirement, but this is boxing and great fighters have a hard time leaving the game.
At 35 and with 59 fights under his belt, many of which were wars, Morales doesn’t have a lot left in the tank. To his credit, he has won 4 of his last 5 bouts, including a victory that earned him the WBC light welterweight title. His loss was a controversial one to Marcos Maidana. It was a close majority decision defeat and gave his career new life.
On the agenda for Saturday is the 23 year old challenger, Danny Garcia, 22-0, 14 KO’s. Garcia has wins over Kendall Holt and Nate Campbell, but will be in there with a ring general and will have to prove he belongs. Even at this stage in the game, Morales is a dangerous fighter with tons of spirit and is not ready to give up the title. It will have to be taken.
James Kirkland, 30-1, 27 KO’s, returns to the ring against the upset-minded, Carlos Molina, 19-4, 6 KO’s. Molina recently had a draw with Erislandy Lara, defeated Kermit Cintron, defeated Julio Cesar Chavez, JR., on two occasions, only to settle for a majority decision loss and draw, and has never been knocked out. This is an incredible test for Kirkland, and a great opportunity for Molina. He has gone 12-0-1 in his last 13, and has only cleanly lost once in his career. Because of his durability, he may bring out the best or worst in Kirkland.
Both fights will air on HBO on Saturday.
NBC puts together another boxing show featuring the return of former welterweight champion, Zab Judah, 41-7, 28 KO’s. Judah has been in with the best. He has faced Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather, JR., Amir Khan, and Kostya Tszyu. At 34, he’s a relatively spent force, but he carries that big punch, which is what he hopes to use on his opponent, Vernon Paris, 26-0, 15 KO’s, in this IBF title eliminator.
The career of Paris has been built on a lot of mediocrities. He has beaten some good journeymen like Emanuel Augustus and Courtney Burton, but Judah is going to be his moment of truth. Despite the age and ring wear of Judah, he’s still a force in the division. He can’t compete with the elite fighters at this stage of his career, but he makes for a great gatekeeper.