Lee Payton takes a look at Saturday's 140lb clash between Erik Morales and Danny Garcia.
Erik Morales will always be remembered as one of those rare no-BS, anyone, anywhere, anytime warriors. Since winning his first world title at 21 in 1997 he's taken on the best in the world, and while he hasn't won them all, the fiery prizefighter from Tijuana has probably had more goosebump moments than any active fighter out there. His accomplishments guarantee a place in the Hall of Fame and you'd be hard-pressed to find a boxing fan who doesn't respect "El Terrible".
His undefeated opponent, Danny Garcia doesn't care about any of that. The 24 year old Philadelphia fighter wants that green belt and he thinks he has the tools to take it from the old guy.
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Believing is at least half of it and he does have a lot to work with physically, but does Garcia have the skills to make Morales feel his age? The bookies certainly seem to think so.
Let's examine the match-up closer to see what the challenger must do to come away with the W in Houston this Saturday night.
Garcia is the naturally bigger, stronger man in this match-up, though I'm not sure it will mean a whole lot when the bell rings as he prefers to box from the outside. It would usually be a good idea for a fighter with those advantages to rough up the smaller guy inside a little, but you can't expect a pug to get away from what he does in his first title fight, and it would probably just bring out the saltiness in the old warhorse anyway. I don't know if riling Morales up is the best idea in the world.
Freshness is the youngster's biggest edge here. To make it count he needs a fast start, and a strong finish. Like so many past-prime greats, this version of Terrible has a way of working his way into a fight, so Garcia has to get off early and often. One also has to assume that he'll have more left in the tank by the time the championship rounds come along and we've seen him scrape out wins before. The title could very well be his for the taking in the last 6 minutes. If he wants it, he's gotta make a positive impression on the judges in crunch time.
From a technical standpoint there's not much Garcia can do to separate himself as he is facing an opponent with a sharper and more varied offensive attack. His best bet is probably to maintain distance and make it as friendly as possible. The odd round-stealing flurry wouldn't be a bad idea either, as judges seem to really appreciate them nowadays.
As much as the confident challenger has going for him, he does make some errors that the fighter who was born in a boxing gym will surely recognize and take advantage of. Like Canelo Alvarez, the famous freckled Mexican fighter, Garcia tends to lock his knees, which limits his mobility, but also keeps his head high, making it a relatively easy target for someone with the length to reach it. If his lead is straightened out, the foot is basically pasted to the canvas, and the only way to evade a straight punch is to try to lean back and away from it, which is his primary defensive tactic.
We've seen this flaw in fights with other classy opponents like Ashley Theophane, who had trouble missing with his right hand. Morales shouldn't have too much trouble finding him either once his engine gets warm.
Despite his youth Garcia is not the type to overwhelm anyone. He likes to work at a more comfortable pace, though to his credit, there are no dips in activity either. The problem is that his work-rate is about the same as Morales' these days, so in a way, he'll be accommodating the old timer by allowing him to rest and pick his spots.
While it's true that one fighter is climbing the hill and the other is on his way down, the fact of the matter for Garcia is that he is facing a fighter he probably doesn't have the ability to stop or outwit. And his wider delivery leaves a lot of space for Tijuana's favorite badass to snipe him with straighter, more accurate blows. I think the promo poster for the event gives you a little snapshot of what the action comes down to. On it you see Garcia throwing a right hand like a baseball and Morales introducing him to a perfect jab.
In my opinion the most likely result is Morales by close decision. The young gun will have his moments, taking some rounds with bounce, showy stuff and energy, but clean punching, grit and classic boxing fundamentals will probably get the job done in the end. That said, it could be close enough to be called a draw. After 60 fights, Morales is due for one of those.
At +265 or so, El Terrible is definitely worth considering. And if you wanted some insurance just remember that the Mexican champion holds the WBC title and will be defending it in Texas.