Danny Garcia vs. Erik Morales: 5 Reasons This Is a Must-Watch Title Fight

Zachary Alapi@@ZacharyAlapiCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2012

Danny Garcia vs. Erik Morales: 5 Reasons This Is a Must-Watch Title Fight

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    Despite having scored an emphatic knockout of Amir Khan to claim the WBC, WBA and Ring junior welterweight titles, it is somewhat easy to forget that Danny Garcia is a lineal champion.

    While Garcia (24-0, 15 KO) has earned his way to the top of the 140-pound heap with a string of quality and exciting wins, one of the reasons for his relative anonymity is that he is still playing second fiddle to Khan.

    It is certainly the case that some fighters capture the public imagination more than others, and Khan is indeed a polarizing figure due to his incredible skill set and suspect chin. As the debate about Khan’s legitimacy perpetually rages on, the former WBA/IBF champion has also made news for hiring Virgil Hunter as his new trainer, as well as for his war of words with domestic rival Kell Brook.

    The fact remains, however, that Garcia is the division’s lineal champion, and while he might not generate as much public debate as Khan does, he still has an important rematch looming against Erik Morales at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Oct. 20. 

    If Garcia does not dominate boxing headlines yet, he’s certainly on his way to building a more mainstream profile. Since defeating former champion Kendall Holt three fights ago, Garcia has also triumphed over Morales (52-8, 36 KO) to first capture the WBC title, which was followed by his knockout of the heavily favored Khan.

    Since that sensational fourth-round stoppage, Garcia’s name has been on the tip of many tongues. Whether one believes that Garcia landed a blind left hook while getting outclassed by Khan or that he absorbed Khan’s best shots and responded with true class of his own, what can’t be denied is that Garcia is a skilled fighter clearly on the rise.

    Morales, on the other hand, is at a crossroads. Despite some brave performances against Marcos Maidana and Garcia, Morales has lost two of his past three fights, and at 36, his retirement seems imminent. Still, Morales can never be discounted, and there is evidence from his first fight with Garcia that the rematch will be compelling.

    Many will groan and suggest that Garcia should be defending his titles against younger contenders. This will certainly happen in the near future for the 24-year-old Garcia, but for now, there are several reasons to be excited for Garcia-Morales II.

1. Pace of the First Fight

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    From a bare-bones standpoint, Garcia-Morales was simply a good scrap. The fight had intriguing ebb and flow, and Morales was highly competitive over the first half of the fight. Perhaps, this had something to do with Garcia showing the Mexican legend too much respect, but it ultimately made for a cagey affair.

    Over the first six rounds, the only truly convincingly won stanzas were Rounds 3 and 6, both of which Garcia won. A strong case could be made for Morales sweeping the first two frames due to his precise punch output and ability to block Garcia’s most telling shots. Rounds 4 and 5 had some solid two-way action.

    Garcia seemed to seize control of Rounds 7 through 9, and it appeared that Morales was starting to fade. However, just when the fight started to become predictable with Garcia landing crisp counters, Morales bloodied and busted Garcia’s nose in Round 10 and appeared to be catching a second wind.

    Then, in Round 11, Garcia floored Morales with a sweeping left hook. As Garcia looked to finish Morales, a warning for hitting on the break gave Morales some crucial time to recover. When the fight resumed, Garcia only attacked in spurts and was unable to score a stoppage despite clearly winning Round 12.

    Given how their first fight unfolded, both Garcia and Morales are left with unfinished business. Will Garcia show Morales less respect and apply increased pressure from the opening bell? One would suspect yes, and an impressive knockout for Garcia will have made the rematch completely worthwhile.

    On the other hand, will Morales be in better shape and not fade down the stretch? In a recap from their last fight, ESPN’s Dan Rafael reported that, according to CompuBox, Garcia outthrew Morales 779 to 547 and outlanded him 238 to 164. It will be interesting to see whether Morales can reverse this trend or use his experience to throw Garcia off his game plan.

2. Momentum

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    Garcia is undoubtedly riding high after dispatching Khan in four rounds in July. Despite getting outboxed early and eating a plethora of right hands, Garcia rallied from a cut over his eye to floor Khan in the third with a left hook that landed on the Englishman’s neck and short-circuited his equilibrium.

    What was particularly impressive was how Garcia closed the show. Khan, who never recovered from the initial knockdown, insisted on slugging, and Garcia showed poise by not running into a wild shot.

    Furthermore, he demonstrated great finishing instincts and scored two more knockdowns before the fight was stopped. When it comes to momentum, Garcia is riding a massive wave.

    On the other hand, Morales might suffer from inertia come fight night. He has not fought since his March unanimous decision defeat to Garcia, which was a fight where he faded down the stretch and weighed in at 142 pounds (two pounds over the junior welterweight limit).

    For his fight against Garcia, Morales’ midsection was rotund (to put it kindly), and one wonders whether he will be on weight for the rematch.

    While it would be understandable if Morales, who has been through innumerable brutal fights and championship contests, has lost his zest for training, it could lead to an ugly downfall against a confident, young champion.

    So, will Morales tap into his well of experience and turn back the clock again? Or, will Garcia win emphatically after his confidence-building destruction of Khan?

3. Future Implications for Garcia

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    Assuming Garcia wins and looks impressive doing so, he will have scored an important title-retaining victory on a significant stage. In terms of gradually building a fighter into a mainstream attraction, securing a spot on the stacked Barclays Center card will be invaluable.

    While a plodding performance against Morales would hurt Garcia, it seems plausible that he is poised for another sharp performance. Having already had his breakout fight against Khan, an emphatic stoppage of Morales or exciting win in general should lead to significant opportunities and high-profile fights for Garcia.

    Scouring the junior welterweight ranks, names like Lucas Matthyse, Zab Judah, Lamont Peterson and Marcos Maidana (who has been campaigning at welterweight recently) could all prove to be intriguing second-defense matchups, as would a rematch with Khan given the excitement of their first encounter.

    Another tantalizing prospect would have Garcia face brawler Mike Alvarado, or even more appealingly, Alvarado-conqueror Brandon Rios should he not land a fight with Manny Pacquiao.

    Also, if Garcia continues to impress and build his fanbase, who’s to say he won’t be in the mix to face Juan Manuel Marquez—depending on how his fight with Pacquiao unfolds—at some point?

    Garcia stands to gain a lot over his next few contests, and only a convincing win over Morales will be the necessary catalyst to propel him into possible mega-fights.

4. Morales’ Last Stand?

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    When Erik Morales ended a two-and-a-half-year retirement in 2010, many predicted his comeback would be abrupt and pointless. With his Hall of Fame legacy secure, there seemed to be little incentive for Morales to fight on after suffering through a four-fight losing streak from 2005 through 2007, including two stoppage defeats to Manny Pacquiao.

    After cruising through three modest (by his standards) opponents, Morales secured a fight with Argentine brawler Marcos Maidana. Many feared for Morales’ safety, but in what amounted to an incredible performance, Morales turned back the clock and basically gave as good as he got against Maidana for 12 thrilling rounds.

    In his next fight, Morales defeated Pablo Cesar Cano to win the WBC light welterweight strap and become the first Mexican-born fighter to win world titles in four weight classes (Morales previously won titles at super bantamweight, featherweight and super featherweight).

    Now 36, Morales, whether he defeats Garcia or not, is clearly in the last act of his career. Some will dispute the legitimacy of the WBC title he claimed against Cano—Timothy Bradley had been elevated to “Champion in Recess”—but a win over Garcia would give Morales a genuine lineal title and an indisputable claim to being a four-division champion.

    Also, a loss to Garcia likely means the end for Morales, so now is the time to tune in and watch a legend at work. After all of his memorable fights, including spectacular trilogies with Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera, it’s hard to fathom that Morales’ last ring appearance could occur a few days from now.

5. Historic Spotlight

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    An article by Tim Smith in the New York Daily News points out the astonishing fact that Brooklyn has not played host to championship boxing in 81 years. The last men to contest a world title fight in Brooklyn? Maxie Rosenbloom and Jimmy Slattery—Rosenbloom retained the light heavyweight title via 15-round unanimous decision.

    To say Brooklyn is overdue for a title fight is an understatement. With the brand new Barclays Center poised to bolster New York’s overall promotion of quality boxing, Saturday’s card will actually include four title fights. 

    Other than Garcia-Morales II, Randall Bailey will defend his IBF welterweight title against Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi will defend his WBA welterweight strap against Pablo Cesar Cano and Peter Quillin will tangle with Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam for the WBO middleweight championship. 

    For Garcia and Morales to be part of this historic card certainly enhances the atmosphere and tone of their rematch. The bottom line is that choosing to watch Garcia-Morales II means viewers will also be privy to three other high quality fights, which is increasingly rare as boxing cards have become watered down.

    The magnitude of this card will also allow colorful personalities to shine. While Danny Garcia is thoughtful and soft spoken, one can only imagine what his father and trainer Angel Garcia will say between now and the fight.

    In a great piece on RingTV.com, Joe Santoliquito goes inside Team Garcia. Treat yourself to an entertaining read as Angel Garcia waxes poetic on everything from boxing to current events, without pulling any punches.

    Also, there is no better stage for a legend like Morales to possibly have his last stand. Will he be out of shape again and fade late in the fight? Or, will he seize the moment and rise to the occasion one final time? The boxing card at the Barclays Center offers the perfect atmosphere for more theatre of the unexpected.