Erik Morales stated Saturday night, after losing to Danny Garcia, that he would retire after one last farewell bout in Mexico. That will be the end of an iconic career.
Morales is one of the very few athletes who has managed to transcend sports and leave an indelible imprint on the hearts and souls of humanity.
He is the quintessential hero and his contributions and sacrifices will live on. Many speak of the power of the human spirit and indomitable will. However, there are few real-life examples. While inspirational songs, books, legends and movies do inspire, their legitimacy is dubious because they are fictional or possibly the result of hyperbole.
The endearing narrative of this heroic Mexican icon teaches us that we are powerful beyond measure. In his case, every hoary cliche applies. We can get back on the proverbial horse, not quit until the fat lady sings and remember that winners never quit and quitters never win. Rocky is real and he is inside each and every one of us. The little engine can and will make it up the hill.
Erik "El Terrible" Morales was born on September 1, 1976, and grew up in la Zona Norte of Tijuana. While many people associate this district with nefarious activity such as drug trafficking and prostitution, it cultivated a soul that would go on to inspire the planet for posterity.
He began boxing at the age of five and amassed an incredible amateur record of 108-6. Trained by his father, Jose Morales (a former fighter), he turned pro at the tender age of 16. While many father-son relationships blossom at an early age only to sour (Shane and Jack Mosley, Oscar and Joel De La Hoya, Roy and Roy Sr. Jones, Floyd and Floyd Sr. Mayweather) Jose and Erik have maintained an excellent working and personal relationship over these 30 years.
When one encounters moments in life that conjure self doubt and despair, it is often challenging to believe the banal phrases of hope. However, recalling having witnessed Erik Morales exude courage and determination behooves one to believe.
He would never take a backseat in a fight to anyone. The more you hurt him, the harder he came back at you. He fought like a real-life Incredible Hulk, growing stronger as his opponents tried to best him.
While today's generation of fighters adhere to the creed of protecting one's record and carefully selecting opponents that make more sense financially than competitively, Morales always sought out the best.
He fought Marco Antonio Barrera three times and engaged in a thrill-fest trilogy with Manny Pacquiao. He defeated 15 world champions and won titles in four weight classes (122, 126, 130, 135 pounds).
While he lost some fights, he never gave anything less than his best. This man's actions spoke to what amazing abilities we have inside ourselves. Naturally, his success is also owed to his hard work and dedication, but his display of unrelenting heart was where he truly shined.
He fought his best when he was tested and that is a lesson we can all learn from.
Last night, he lost, for the second time, to undefeated champion Danny Garcia. His mojo was not there. His feet were stationary, his punches slow, his reflexes shot, but his heart remained epic. As Morales was rocked with a head-spinning left hook, his corner quickly rushed in to stop the fight. They knew that his heart was not going to let him quit, so they made the necessary choice for him.
Post-fight, he announced that he wants to say “goodbye'' to his fans and the sport in Mexico. He is owed that.
The legend will return to his job as the Director of Parks and Recreation in Tijuana, where he will continue to provide opportunities and hope, through sport, to the people of his hometown. He will also commit time to his company, Box Latino promotions, and his gym, Box Latino, that he and his wife operate in Tijuana.
However, his legacy resonates across borders and cultures and inspires all of us.
"Si se peuda " is more than a chant, it is a real-life example of how we can fight and strive on when our mind and body believe we cannot. Morales is not a cheap marketing slogan. He is a real-life hero.
Thank you, champ.
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