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The Manny Pacquiao Chronicles: Erik Morales II

By Daniel “Tex” Cohen

There are particular fights throughout history in which one fighter becomes a different boxer than he was before the fight.  These occurrences happen in terms of ascending or descending patterns.  A boxer can climb the stairs or fall down them in terms of making a name and symbol for himself.  Sometimes, like Jermain Taylor did against Kelly Pavlik, one can stumble physically while succeeding metaphorically. 

The same happened to Erik Morales in his second fight with Manny Pacquiao.  In the first fight, Morales, 48-4, 34 KO’s, was able to put together the punches necessary to not only hit Pacquiao, 41-3, 33 KO’s, hard but also hit him often.  The battle had been a twelve round bloody mess, with Pacquiao’s face looking to be covered in Halloween prop scars.  Morales, with bloody shorts, was able to raise his hand that day when he was announced as the winner by unanimous decision. 

There was not a more sought after rematch in the sport at the time.  There was plenty of controversy following the first fight.  Besides that, Pacquiao’s greatness was hailed through out the sport after his beat down of Marco Antonio Barrera.  Morales had won the first fight by choosing the right times to box and bang. 

There were several quirks to the first fight.  The most dramatic of these was Morales’ decision to box southpaw in the twelfth round and get rocked so badly that it looked at times as if he would go down.  The bewildering decision by the Mexican fighter combined with several other elements to cast doubt on the outcome. 

Pacquiao was originally denied the use of his preferred gloves because of a contract signed by his promoter.  Also, Pacquiao suffered a huge gash over his eye that was clearly caused by a butt.  The cut was ruled from a punch, sending Pacquiao into a mode of urgency. 

All these wide turns of could have affected the outcome of the fight and left plenty on the plate for each fighter in the second fight.  It also meant that both men would be hungrier than ever to get back at an opponent.  Whether or not Pacquiao would turn on the guns and take back the initiative was yet to be seen. 

As a sign of weakness and point of entry into Morales’ ability and arsenal, he was coming off of a loss entering the rematch with Pacquiao.  In between the first two fights, Morales faced Zahir Raheem in what was supposed to be a tune up fight.  Rahim applied relentless pressure to Morales and bullied him all the way to a unanimous decision in September of 2005.  In that fight, the crowd booed and groaned as it became more and more apparent that their favorite fighter was destined to lose. 

Now, Morales struggled to make the 130 pound super featherweight weight limit necessary to fight Pacquiao.  Even so, odds for the rematch were dead even in most audiences and very narrowly tilted in favor of Morales in Las Vegas.  The scene at the Thomas and Mack Center was a chaotic frenzy.  Every seat in the house was packed and screaming and got what they deserved for their money.  From the opening bell, the action never stopped. 

The first two rounds featured a blitzkrieg by Pacquiao, with the southpaw slithering and rushing his way inside and landing numerous strafing left hands and crosses down the middle.  Morales was rocked hard several times in the round and landed only occasional leather.  When he did land the shots were strong.  Pacquiao more or less dominated the pace and returned to his style at the end of the second round. 

Morales was back in the right gear over the next few rounds.  Moving in a slightly more tactical manner, Morales landed plenty of jabs and combinations to pile up points.  He also abandoned his flat footed counter-punching for a stick and move strategy that utilized his reach.  It seemed as though he had taken control and found a road map to winning the fight. 

Pacquiao came out like a gangbuster in the sixth round and put on a fearless display that would set the tone for the rest of the bout.  His hands increased in speed as he landed shots in bunches of five and six.  He rocked Morales with shots to both the body and head and nailed him with a volley that stumbled Morales badly with less than thirty seconds to go in the round.  Morales returned to his corner looking beaten, with blood coming from his nose.

Over the remaining rounds, Pacquiao continued to unleash his fury on Morales’ battered body.  With each round, Morales would flurry back for less and less time and return to his stool looking more and more dejected.  With each round, Pacquiao landed more and more combinations and dictated more and more of the pace. 

Throughout rounds eight and nine, Pacquiao began to land more and more vicious shots.  His right uppercut and his hard left hook thudded at will.  Morales returned to his stool both times with blood shot eyes and a busted face. 

It was in the tenth round that Pacquiao finally sealed the deal against a flat footed and fatigued Erik Morales.  He unleashed a flurry of punches that sent Morales back one last time, softening him with right hands to the body.  Morales retreated and dropped his hands to protect his ribs, leaving Pacquiao just enough room to land a crushing left hook that sent Morales to the mat on hands and knees for only the second time in his career. 

Morales showed his nearly routine display of courage by climbing to his feet, but it appeared that the bout was over.  Pacquiao jumped on him immediately after he rose from the mat and ended the fight by putting him back down.  Kenny Bayles made the merciful stoppage at 2:33. 

Pacquiao ran to his corner and basked in his victory.  The performance was impressive and career defining.  He had beaten back one of his ghosts convincingly.  He credited himself… and his gloves. 

“The gloves I use Cleto Reyes are the gloves I like and they are more comfortable,” Pacquiao he said in a post fight interview.   “Every time I hit him in the body he stopped punching but I was careful because he was a power puncher.  He was hurt to the body first before I hit him in the head. If he got up the second time I knew I would finish him.”

Morales told the cameras what most already knew.  I was tired and it is an accumulation of all the hard fights,” Morales confided after the defeat. “It was just very hard and I fell down because I was just tired. I was tired because of making weight. I hadn’t made 130-pounds in over a year and the body can’t take that much more and I was just exhausted.”

Of course, Morales found it appropriate for there to be a third fight between the two.  He fought Pacquiao ten months later and was swallowed up in three rounds.  He fought one more time again after that and lost a close decision to WBC Lightweight Champion David Diaz in August, announcing his retirement afterward. 

Pacquiao went on successfully to beat Oscar Larios before taking the rubber match with Morales in the third fight.  Then, he trounced Jorge Solis by an eighth round knockout and settled business with a clear cut unanimous decision victory of Marco Antonio Barrera.  Pacquiao is slated to fight early next year in one of many possible combinations that are expected to be all time classic match ups.  Possible opponents that have been mentioned include Juan Manuel Marquez, Juan Diaz, and Edwin Valero. 

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