With the fire to compete still burning brightly, former three division world champion and future Hall of Famer Sugar Shane Mosley will return to the boxing ring on Saturday, May 18 to square off against highly regarded welterweight contender Pablo Cesar “El Demoledor” Cano in a temporary venue which will be set up on the beach in front of The Grand Oasis in Cancun, Mexico.
Alan Dawson – London
Erik Morales… a first ballot hall-of-famer, a natural fighter – it is said he was even born in a boxing gym, enjoyed 117 amateur fights, 59 professional bouts, was successful in 18 world championship contests whilst also sharing the ring with 14 title challengers and 17 world champions; two of them thrice and another twice. There is little doubting the man is a ring legend who has just punctuated his legacy by becoming the first from his country, Mexico, to claim major honours in four separate weight divisions. On The Beak details his greatest hits…
Championship winning fights
1997: WBC super bantamweight title – Daniel Zaragoza (55-7-3, 28ko pre-fight record)
Morales scooped his first world honour at his first attempt after already collecting domestic prizes as both Mexican and NABF champion. Having first laced-up gloves as a five-year-old in 1981 he went on to amass 11 major amateur awards in his homeland before competing in his first pro prizefight at 16. He was just 21 when he took on Zaragoza… a veteran at 39 who was making the sixth defence of his third reign as a 122lb champ, and had already despatched of gritty Northern Irishman; Wayne McCullough.
Morales was not as polished as he was during his eventual pomp. He was a brawler at the time and, as comes with the territory of slugging, was caught by incoming shots from Zaragoza’s loaded guns – most notably the right cross. Morales’ will and fighting spirit prevailed over Zaragoza’s experience and ring nous and Erik claimed the win in the penultimate round, stopping the two-weight world champ with a one-two combination; a head-bound orthodox jab followed by an overhand right guided direct onto the solar plexus. Zaragoza sat on his backseat; loathe to make the count.
“This really isn’t a sad death of a king, so much a passing of the torch to a new generation,” HBO commentator Larry Merchant aptly stated post-fight. That torch is something Morales supposedly relinquished to Manny Pacquiao, during their second and third fights in 2006, but his stubborn comeback in 2010 and subsequent fights has ensured he remains competitive with the super lightweight elite.
He made nine successful defences of the WBC title as well as annexing Barrera’s WBO belt.
2001: WBC featherweight title – Guty Espadas Jr (33-2-0, 21ko pre-fight record)
Morales loved declaring war and relished the fights where his opponents returned fire with fire. Espadas Jr, who was trained by Ignacio Beristain at the time, provided Morales with a grueling 12-round battle. Guty had a granite chin and powerful pop in his punches. Morales was undefeated going into the bout but was seen as something of an underdog, however, he began his fight against Espadas Jr in strong fashion by utilising the jab from good range and bombarding Guty with triple hook shots.
It was not long before the two exchanged blows from the inside, trading hooks, uppercuts and body shots. The end of the second round seemed ruthless from the outside as two proud Mexicans went gung-ho within the space of a phone box. Espadas Jr’s conditioning was sterling, he came on strong in the second half of the fight and, even though the double-hard Morales won by way of unanimous decision, the scoring is considered debatable due to the way the fight finished – with Espadas Jr in the ascendancy and Morales on the backfoot.
When speaking with ringtv.com, Morales rated the brutality and toughness of his trench-fought combat with Espadas Jr in the same league as the marquee slobberknockers he will forever be synonymous with: the trilogies with Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera, together with his trumping of Wayne McCullough, In-Jin Chi and Jesus Chavez.
With the points win, Morales was a confirmed two-weight world champion and made one successful defence, lost his title to Barrera in their second fight (again, under debatable scoring), before reclaiming the vacant title against Paulie Ayala as Barrera refused to accept the championship. After Ayala, Morales defended the featherweight crown a further two times.
2004: WBC super featherweight title – Jesus Chavez (40-2-0, 28ko pre-fight record)
If the distance fight with Espadas Jr was a two-way thumping from the trenches then Morales’ epic with Chavez was violence in the streets as both boxers suffered angry cuts. Defending champion Chavez stuck accurate combinations onto Morales in the second round but El Terrible responded resoundingly by dropping Jesus twice.
Chavez injured his shoulder early, though, and was inhibited by the injury, minimising his ability to throw power punches with his right. The crowd were in raptures by the fight’s end… on their feet, praising a warrior-like performance from both combatants.
Morales won more decisively against Chavez than he did versus Espadas Jr, but he was able to erase any doubt of that fight as he teekayoed Guty in the third round of a WBC eliminator, contested immediately prior to gaining a title in his third weight class.
By snaring Chavez’s super featherweight belt, Morales became only the second Mexican to reach the zenith of three divisions – second only after all-time great Julio Cesar Chavez Sr (and later to be joined by Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Fernando Montiel).
2011: WBC super lightweight title – Pablo Cesar Cano (21-0-1, 17ko pre-fight record)
The overhand right – the punch that Erik had allowed to repeatedly leak through his armour and land on his head in his very first championship fight – was this time used effectively by Morales against effervescent challenger Cano.
The 21-year-old troubled the veteran warhorse early on as Morales failed to find rhythm, however, using all his savvy ring craft, Morales sought to aggravate the cuts on Cano’s face… his head stained with a claret splatter leaving his corner with the tough decision to pull the young buck out of the fight before the eleventh round.
Observers point to the dubious nature of the fight having world championship status as Timothy Bradley was stripped by the WBC due to “inactivity” and instead labeled a “champion in recess”. Morales had already endured an ebb-and-flow fight with Marcos Maidana that On The Beak scored a 114-114 but the ringside judges had it as a majority decision for Maidana. Morales was then due to box Lucas Matthysse, another tortuously tough puncher from Argentina, but withdrew late due to injury, leaving the WBC having to push Cano as the replacement.
Despite the politics, Morales achieved what no other Mexican had before him… stormed to another major honour in a fourth division.
(Video embedded above credit – Youtube, 2008sALINAs)
1998: WBC super bantamweight defence – Junior Jones (44-3-0, 26ko pre-fight record)
Blessed with great technique, Junior Jones headed into his fight with champion Morales having an extraordinary record of 34-0-0 against Mexicans – two of those wins against Barrera. Morales pulled one back for his country by staggering Jones on multiple occasions before knocking him down and claiming a technical knockout win in the fourth.
2000: WBC/WBO super bantamweight unification – Marco Antonio Barrera (49-2-0, 36ko pre-fight record)
The first installment of a three-part series resulted in a win for Morales, although it was seen somewhat as an unofficial win for Barrera. The result, though, was reversed in the second fight as Barrera got the official nod despite Morales appearing to produce the superior work. The 2000 fight was hailed as the outright fight of the year winner as it was non-stop action.
Morales commented after: “He was brave… we both gave it all we had. We were both hurt. He was the biggest puncher I ever faced in the ring.”
2001: WBC featherweight defence – In-Jin Chi (21-1-0, 14ko pre-fight record)
Another all-out bullet-laden slaughter with Morales firing continuously at an opponent who may as well have been clad with a ballistic vest under his chest and a steel plate over his jaw. Chi had great chutzpah, was a forward-stepper but docked a point in the tenth for a litter of fouls. Morales finished the fight with his left eye swollen shut – the catalyst an accidental clash of heads.
Out of all his opponents, it is Chi who had Morales’ respect for his resistance: “That was one very tough guy,” he reflected one day to thering.tv. “I should have knocked him out with the number of hard punches I landed to his chin but he just kept coming forward.”
2005: Minor super featherweight titles – Manny Pacquiao (39-2-2, 30ko pre-fight record)
Morales also fought a trilogy with Pacquiao and, currently, can lay claim to be the last man to defeat the Filipino pound-for-pound king. Their 2005 duel was the first time they crossed swords, with Pacquiao trumping Morales by way of knockout – twice – in 2006.
It was another highly-anticipated fight and it didn’t disappoint on the night as it was a high-tempo battle, an edge-of-the-seat thriller… Morales displayed his true grit by taking punishment early on, emerging second best throughout each of the opening three rounds, but found his groove and dominated the middle and latter stages.
“I was controlling everything and I threw a good left jab. I knew he was fast but my ring [knowledge] was able to control everything he had… I wanted to punish him,” he said post-fight; comments rarely heard from an opponent Pacman has faced.
All Pictures: Stacey Verbeek – Maple Avenue Boxing Gym, Dallas
Despite being burdened with the underdog tag, unheralded Pablo Cesar Cano made a name for himself by going ten brutal ebb and flow rounds with ring legend Erik Morales on Saturday, September 17 at the Star Power event in the MGM Grand Garden Arena. By the bout’s conclusion – a teekayo triumph for Morales – both boxers bore bruising, swelling and cuts on their face.
Robert Delgado – Los Angeles
Erik Morales became a four weight world champion – the first from Mexico – on Saturday, September 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas as the 35-year-old warrior bloodied the face of young challenger Pablo Cesar Cano so much that his corner pulled the 21-year-old out of the contest. Cano had Morales troubled early on, but ultimately had no defence against Erik’s overhand right.
Unheralded Mexican prizefighter Pablo Cesar Cano, a late replacement for fan favourite Lucas Matthysse who withdrew citing illness, boxed with the exuberance of youth in the opening stanza while Erik Morales – who shocked the boxing world be rewinding the years to produce a thriller against Marcos Maidana in April – lacked rhythm.
Against Maidana, Morales had to fight from the second round onwards with virtually just the one eye as his other sealed shut due to a grotesque swelling. That wear-and-tear that comes with experience once again showed itself as hard left hands from Cano began to take their toll as early as the second round. Cano forced a fight that Morales was unable to keep up with… he out-threw, out-landed and had greater accuracy than old warhorse “El Terrible” and so the ten scores could only go one way.
Morales lacked any sort of speed but was able to get his right cross off in the third… in the fourth, the one-two that had been his bread-and-butter move for so long, lacked sharpness and pop but Cano in return flurried at air, not flesh. A cut opened up over Cano’s left eye midway through the round. Some fighters react well to blood, inspiring them on to inflict damage onto the one who caused it while others retreat inside themselves. Cano had little time to react, for Morales was invigorated by the cut and sought to aggravate the wound further.
In the fifth, Cano had settled back down and stuck uppercuts and body shots onto Morales’ 35-year-old body. Cano also threw punches in good successions, hammering Morales while the elder statesmen was slow and sluggish on the ropes. The right hand looked a useful weapon for the youngster as he landed it numerous times and it was set-up with the left hook.
The sixth round showed Morales looking to annoy the swelling and cut over Cano’s eye by sticking his jab across it. He’s also throw his lead shot, then crouch down, using head movement to slip any incoming punch then rising back upright and throwing the left hook – the lift creating more force behind the punch.
While Cano’s defence may be lacking, his ability to flurry was never in question as he hit Morales with four-punch combos in the seventh. Morales, too, had begun bleeding and the Mexican ring legend appeared perturbed by the round’s end. Morales, though, turned the tide again in the eighth as he landed the punch of the fight by tanking Cano with an overhand right. In the final minute of the stanza, blood was smeared over the face of the 21-year-old dubbed El Demoledor.
The powerful right hand kept finding it’s target for Morales in the ninth and, with blood streaming from his nose and with swellings now over both eyes, the effect of Morales’ punching looked to have been superior to Cano’s who had failed to capitalise on his early success.
Morales took the fight to Cano in the tenth, chasing him around the ring and harassing him with an array of punches. The more damage that appeared on Cano’s face, the more Erik was determined to win an early stoppage and he thumped double overhand rights onto Cano.
Referee Kenny Bayless asked the ringside physician to examine Cano midway through the fight but, even though he was permitted to carry on, his corner – headed by Rudy Perez – pulled their young ward out of the bout. Morales, therefore, won by way of a technical knockout.
With the win, Erik rose to 52-7-0, 36ko and became the WBC’s latest champion at super lightweight, however, because erstwhile titlist Timothy Bradley was stripped of the honour, many boxing fans won’t recognise Morales’ achievement at 140lbs until an ultimate box-off with Bradley. Cano dropped to 22-1-1, 17ko… he entered the fight as an unknown, but due to his valiant effort his name will not be forgotten and he will likely be welcomed back to Las Vegas.
All pictures: Stacey Verbeek – Maple Avenue Boxing Gym, Dallas
The Star Power undercard features one world title fight and an American domestic bout that is sure to be a firecracker. Ring legend Erik Morales takes on late replacement Pablo Cesar Cano for the WBC super lightweight world title, while Jessie Vargas and Josesito Lopez contest the televised curtain-raiser. Eyes will be on Cano and Vargas on September 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as both have undefeated records and proven knockout power.
Alan Dawson – London
Decorated warhorse Erik Morales returns to the battlefield on Saturday, September 17 against a late addition to the Star Power line-up; unheralded and undefeated Mexican prizefighter Pablo Cesar Cano. Lucas Matthysse was initially slated to box Morales for the WBC super lightweight championship, but even though replacement Cano is a largely unknown quality to a US audience, former two-weight world titlist Jesus Chavez has warned that the hunger of youth cannot be under-estimated.
“Cano is the kind of fighter who has fought in Mexico all his career, never been outside of Mexico,” Chavez, a former champion of the WBC super featherweight crown and the IBF lightweight title, explained exclusively to On The Beak editor Alan Dawson.
A 21-year-old with a domestic belt already wrapped around his waist, El Demoledor (The Demolition Man) has thus far lived up to his moniker as he has stopped three out of every four opponents thus far in his fledgling career. Chavez said that taking his game to the States, in boxing’s capital – Las Vegas – no less, could be both a blessing and a damnation.
Cano could retreat inside himself under the bright lights, but it’s a step his management may have decided upon in order to take him out of his comfort zone, Chavez said. “Fighting in Vegas will be a bit more intimidating, but that may have been the reason for taking him out of his element. He’s an unknown fighter, he’s fought lesser calibre opponent than Morales,” he noted.
A 38-year-old currently coaching boxers at the Maple Avenue Boxing Gym in Dallas, Chavez (44-8-0, 30ko) enjoyed an illustrious professional career that saw him attract multiple accolades as well as sharing the ring with a number of boxing’s most well-known names. One of those, was Morales (51-7-0, 35ko).
In a spirited performance from both fighters where punches were traded within the space of a phone box for the lion’s share of a 2004 distance ruckus, Morales won a unanimous decision over Chavez and became a three-weight world champion by wresting the WBC super featherweight title away from Jesus’ tight grip. Chavez said that Morales’ best chances of victory against Cano (22-0-1, 17ko) will be to maintain that fan-friendly style: “Morales will have to use his experience, his ring generalship and possibly take the kid into deep waters and take him apart there.”
With experience, can come wear-and-tear. In Morales’ last fight – a blood and guts battle fought in the trenches against tough Argentine, Marcos Maidana – Erik had to complete the contest with one eye as a grotesque tennis ball-sized swelling sealed his right eye shut. I asked Chavez if those swellings are freak occurrences or if there is a possibility of a repeat incident against Cano, himself a big-hitter.
“As we age, we tend to mark up a lot faster [and our] reflexes are a lot slower,” Jesus, a composed and articulate talker, told me. “Morales is definitely going to have to be on his game. He trains at high altitude, around the best facilities in Mexico City. I don’t think his opponent is going to have the same quality of training regimen, or quality of opponents/sparring partners [but] he does tend to be dangerous because he’s younger than Morales.”
On the Maidana and Morales fight itself, a bout that On The Beak scored a 114-114 draw in April, Chavez said: “Maidana and Morales was a very interesting fight. I was actually surprised at how Morales did in that fight. I think, I’m trying to think… Maidana beat him on points, it could have been a draw, I would not have disputed a draw at all. I’m just being a fan now but having that knowledge on the field, I would not have disputed a decision draw, but I’m not disputing the outcome of the fight either – it was very close.
“It’s going to be interesting on Saturday as his opponent is a lot younger, definitely hungrier and we are going to see youth versus experience. Not to be disrespectful to Morales, but age… it’s beauty and the beast, that’s the contrast between the two. His opponent has been given a shot of a lifetime to fight Morales and fight for the championship of the world. It’s a shot of a lifetime for the kid.”
Putting Chavez on the spot, I asked him for his prediction come fight night: “This is difficult to actually say because of Morales’ age, his fights, the youth of Cano but I’m going to have to stick with the old dog! I’ll stick with Morales,” asserted El Matador, before sending the fighters his well wishes: “I wish them both well and wish them both safety.”