End of an era: Morales retires after losing to Diaz

By Matthew Aguilar @ ringside


End of an era: Morales retires after losing to Diaz

There’s a saying in boxing that every great fighter has one great fight left in him. Erik Morales delivered that fight Saturday at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. Only, it wasn’t enough. And then Morales, one of the greatest Mexican fighters in history, called it a career. Morales lost a 12-round unanimous decision to David Diaz in a bid for the WBC lightweight title before 9,735 screaming fans in Diaz's hometown. Morales promptly retired, saying he has taken too many punches to the head. It was a spirited effort from the warrior from Tijuana, but he faded down the stretch and had little left as the exciting fight drew to a close. “That’s it. I’m not going to fight anymore,” Morales said after the grueling affair. “I’m worried about taking too many punches, particularly to the head. I got hit tonight, and these shots really bothered me. I’m not going to do this anymore.” Morales was attempting to become the first Mexican fighter in history to win world titles in four weight divisions, from 122 to 135 pounds. And he did come close, he even dropped the champ in the first round with a rocket right hand.  In the end, though, Diaz proved too strong, too big and just too tough for Morales, who proved he is still indeed quality, but not compared to what he used to be. He is done with a record of 48-6 (34 KOs). Diaz, meanwhile, improved to 33-1-1 (17 KOs). He was the hometown favorite, but he was far from the favorite, as attendees seemed evenly divided.  [Editor's note: Joel Casamayor is generally regarded as the legitimate 135-pound world champion, while Juan Diaz has two of the four major belts].

The fight opened with serious fireworks, as Diaz staggered Morales with a big left hand toward the end of the round. As Morales wobbled backwards, he caught Diaz with a massive double right hand coming in, flooring the defending champion. The Chicago crowd erupted.

In round two, the fight began to take on a pattern. Diaz, with the fresher legs, would attack and back Morales to the ropes. Morales, with aging legs, began to pick his shots, while leaning on the ropes. Diaz was landing more punches, but Morales was landing the sharper ones. 

Diaz again came out hard for the third round, attacking and digging to Morales’ body. Midway, though, another Morales right stung Diaz. It was that kind of fight.

In the fifth, Morales issued a boxing lesson, using his jab and, surprisingly, his legs to outmaneuver the champ. Moving in and out, he rocked Diaz with a right hand and the experience built up over a 14-year career began to show itself. He hurt Diaz with a series of right hands.

With an ugly welt growing underneath his left eye, Diaz attacked in the sixth. And he began to find a home for his left hand, landing it again and again and sending sprays of sweat hurling toward ringside. His strength began to tire Morales midway through the fight. And, through the eighth round, Diaz’ physicality was telling the tale. Morales, his 30 year old legs wavering, could only counter in spurts.

Somehow, the great champion from Tijuana found reserves in the 10th, even in the twilight of his Hall-of-Fame career. His legs began to move again, and he competed evenly in a blistering, ebb-and-flow fight.

At the end of the 11th, both fighters landed their home run punches – setting up the final round.

The final round was all Diaz. He came out hard, and worked Morales against the ropes. And though Morales would retaliate with counters, it wasn’t enough to hold the young champion off. At the end, Morales wore the expression of a tired, beaten fighter.
In the end, that's what he was. And then he said goodbye.


Send questions and comments to: maguilarnew@yahoo.com