Should Juan Manuel Marquez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. actually fight on July 18, there could be a familiar face on the undercard: Erik Morales.
Morales has gotten back into the gym, and his comeback is serious. He told reporters he's shooting for a July return against a soft touch (he said "not a top contender," but he means soft touch) and hasn't decided what weight he'd fight at just yet. He still maintains that he wants to fight Marquez later on to try to win the 135-pound championship, which would be his fourth weight class with a title won.
Morales turns 33 in September and currently has a career record of 48-6 with 34 knockouts. He is a Hall of Famer no matter if he comes back or not, at least in my mind. His trilogy with Barrera was one of boxing's greatest, fiercest rivalries, and his trilogy with Pacquiao was a sight to behold as well.
I know some people want to hope for the best and go, "Well he looked pretty good against David Diaz, I thought he even won that fight." That's fine -- he was competitive.
But he was competitive against David Diaz, a guy Morales would have eaten for breakfast when he was at his best. Seven months later, Diaz would get tested by a pro sparring partner when he fought a stay-busy bout with Roman Montano, and then three months after that he got so thoroughly destroyed by Pacquiao that he admitted mid-fight that there was nothing he could do. Tough guy, gutsy guy, nice guy, funny guy -- not a great fighter.
You can even disregard Pacquiao and just focus on Montano. Morales had trouble with a guy who had trouble with Montano. Diaz-Morales was a hell of a fight and I thought it was a great sendoff for "El Terrible," but he thinks there's something left.
It's nothing new, and I love Morales as a fighter. He was phenomenal. But the fact is he's lost five of his last six fights. Before dropping the close rubber match to Barrera in 2004, Morales was 47-1. He's 48-6 now. He turned in one more great performance against Pacquiao in 2005, then lost to Zahir Raheem, Pacquiao twice, and finally Diaz.
Turns out "finally" just isn't enough. He's a proud man, a warrior in the ring, and he'll come back. I wouldn't guess we'll have seen Morales for the last time until he's about 40 years old, assuming he doesn't get hurt.
And the thing is getting hurt is an issue. Bob Arum has refused to have anything to do with a Morales comeback because Morales reported having buzzing in his head during the Diaz fight after taking some shots to the head. When Bob Arum is so concerned about fighter safety he backs off of your career, there's most likely a real issue.
I wish this wasn't happening, I wish it had turned out to be all talk, but it's going to happen. Like many of our favorite fighters, Morales will fight until he isn't allowed to or just physically can't even get in there anymore. He now starts down that long, lonely road, where his fights aren't going to be big deals, people aren't going to realize what kind of fighter he was at his peak unless they saw him then, and he just becomes another one of those sad, old fighters that won't let go.
All the best to him. I really mean that. But what good comes of this?