Remembering the First Pacquiao-Morales Bout
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Sat, 21 Mar 2020
I think it was from Muhammad Ali that I heard the saying the greatness of a man is measured not solely by the heights of his achievements but also from the depths of his climb back from miseries and defeats.
I was reminded of this in recalling the first of the trilogy between boxing greats Mexican Erik El Terible Morales, now a Hall of Famer and Filipino Manny The Pacman Pacquiao, a surefire future Hall of Fame first ballot inductee and highly potential all-time great, which happened March 19 (March 20 in the Philippines), fifteen years ago.
It was the first decisive loss, a painful one physically and psychologically for Pacquiao since his last defeat in a failed defense of his flyweight title in Thailand via stoppage to Singsurat 3k Battery, six years--- and four weight divisions--- ago.
It proved to be a loss, as in his Singsurat defeat, that far from disheartening him and setting back his career even fortified his determination, spurred him to better his craft and provided the drive that enabled him to accomplish more and greater feats atop the square ring going forward.
Pacquiao would not only avenge that loss twice over both by knockout of Morales, but also go on a winning binge not seen before that would net him six more world boxing titles in as many weight divisions to go with the flyweight, super bantamweight and featherweight belts he had won earlier, in the next more than four years, i.e. 2006-2010.
For Morales, it was a fight that put him in the discussion then and now as one of the greatest fighters to have come from across the Rio Grande. Before that fight, Erik had to content himself as a close second to bitter rival Marco Antonio Barrera who had beaten him twice in three fiercely fought title bouts.
That billing was even in doubt as close friend Juan Manuel Marquez had earlier boosted his stock by holding Pacquiao, who held a smashing win over Barrera in 2004, to a fighting draw in a featherweight title bout.
Recently, Marquez (who has also been enshrined last year in the Hall of Fame and who likewise held a title win over the same Barrera) has claimed his 2012 sixth round knockout of Pacquiao as the greatest win by a Mexican fighter in Mexican boxing annals, even greater than Julio Cesar Chavez's last round stoppage of American Meldrick Taylor back in 1995.
For this writer, the first Morales-Pacquiao fight in 2005 was even greater than those two from a neutral and bipartisan point of view in terms of competitiveness both of the fighters and their corners, in-ring drama and the fact that it was less controversial.
The Chavez-Taylor 1 was decided by the referee when he stopped the bout with just two ticks left and awarded Chavez a TKO win despite the fact Taylor was winning it in two of the judges scorecard. What more could Chavez do apart from getting out of the neutral corner in the remaining two seconds even assuming he had Taylor seriously hurt after downing him, critics were begging for sane answer. Talks were rife then till now that Don King had a hand in protecting Chavez and preserving his "0" in that fight because it was the Mexican who kept his cash register ringing.
The sudden ending to the Pacquiao-Marquez 4 surprised everyone including Marquez who clipped Manny with a hail mary punch as he was being pummeled in that fateful sixth round. The refusal of Marquez for a fifth fight, despite his still being down, 1-2-1 (win-loss-draw) only reinforced the belief that the knockout was a fluke, a result of a lucky punch.
Pacquiao was also coming off a controversial loss to Tim Bradley and it was disturbing him heading into the Marquez 4 fight.
The Pacquiao-Morales 1 was different.
Before meeting Morales, Pacquiao was enjoying a near five year unbeaten streak spoiled only by two controversial draws against Agapito Sanchez in 2002 and Marquez in 2004. He had won world titles at super bantamweight over Lehlo Lebwaba and featherweight over Barrera. He had defeated 13 of 15 opponents in that stretch, all via the short route, including Lebwaba and Barrera.
Morales on the other hand had seen an otherwise brilliant eleven year pro career record marred by two close and disputed losses to Barrera, the last coming in their most recent bout in December of 2004 where he ceded his WBC super featherweight title. Erik had previously reigned as champion also at super bantamweight under WBC (and WBO which he won from Barrera in 2000) and featherweight which he lost to Barrera in 2002.
Heading into their March 19, 2005 showdown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with the vacant WBC international and IBA super featherweight titles at stake, it was Pacquiao's first fight above the featherweights but still he was installed as a 7-5 favorite.
It was not a world title bout but it generated so much buzz in the United States and was televised live via pay per view through HBO. It generated a modest 350,000 ppv buys earning $15.7 million in revenues. Morales was guaranteed $2.5 million and Pacquiao, $1.75 million in purses.
Pacquiao entered the fight as Ring Magazine world featherweight champion while Morales was ranked number two in the super featherweight division.
The fight was decided by the skills and brilliance and or shortcomings of the fighters as much as their corner. Freddie Roach was outwitted by Jose Morales, Erik's father and long time trainer.
Freddie had decided that Pacquiao would have to improve on his style of fighting that saw his preponderant use of his left hand, his main weapon to beat Morales. So he devised a strategy he called Manila Ice that would make Pacquiao a truly two fisted fighter.
The elder Morales on the other hand stuck with his son's main strength, his right hand which Erik typically used in combination with his equally busy left and ordered him to not wait for Pacquiao to make his move but to attack at every opportunity.
Attack Morales did for most of the fight employing his right hand and size and strength advantage (Erik was usually a full super lightweight at fight time) and at times, Pacquiao was unprepared how to counter him.
Pacquiao sustained a deep cut over his right eye from a headbutt in the fifth round. "It was a big distraction," he said after the fight.
The Los Angeles Times called the match "a brilliant fight . . . which left the sellout crowd of 14,623 standing and cheering through much of it."
Morales landed 265 of 714 total punches (37 percent) and 169 of 411 power punches (41 percent). Pacquiao landed 217 of 894 total punches (24 percent) and 183 of 545 power punches (34 percent).
Judges Chuck Giampa, Dave Moretti and Paul Smith all had it 115-113 for Morales.
The Associated Press and Harold Lederman, HBO's unofficial judge, scored the fight 116-112 for Morales.
According to wikipedia:
"Less than a week before the fight, Pacquiao learned that his promoter, Murad Muhammad, had negotiated away his right to pick the brand of gloves he wanted to wear and gave Morales the choice. Morales picked Winning, which Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach later called "pillows." Japanese-made Winning brand gloves have the bulk of their padding near the fist, and Morales — with a history of brittle hands — preferred them. Pacquiao wanted to wear Cleto Reyes gloves, the Mexican-made brand with a reputation as a puncher's glove because the padding is distributed in such a way that the fighter's fist is not nearly as padded as it is in other brands. "I would have liked to use my gloves," Pacquiao said after the fight, "but I had to go with what was in the contract."
Two days before the fight, the Nevada State Athletic Commission forced Pacquiao to take a blood test and an eye examination. The commission stated that Pacquiao had failed to submit to a mandatory medical examination within the prescribed 30-day period before the fight. Freddie Roach said Pacquiao had been examined at a California clinic on March 4, and the test results had been lost. Murad Muhammad had former FBI agent Warren Flagg call the doctor at the clinic and ask him to fax the test results to the commission. Flagg reported back to Muhammad that the examination had not been done within 30 days of the fight; It had been done in January. Muhammad was then accused of having the test results stolen.
Shortly after losing to Morales, Pacquiao told Filipino talk show host Dong Puno that he felt dizzy and his head started to hurt after his blood was taken. The doctor told him to drink a lot of water, but he couldn’t because he was drying out to make weight. Pacquiao said he went into the fight feeling drained and weak."
Pacquiao would undergo changes in the following days for the better. Starting with his promoter. But he would stick with Freddie.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
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