18th of December is the date for boxing fans to see the faded legend of Mexican great Erik Morales turn up in a boxing ring once more. The once feared warrior continues his comeback that started earlier this year with a rusty performance against Jose Alfaro, then got going against Scotland’s Willie Limond and now Morales takes a significant step up in quality when he faces Jorge Rodrigo Barrios. Both fighters have very similar records both have 50 wins, 35 KO wins and both have been stopped twice, though Morales has 2 more losses and Barrios has a draw though one is certainly much more favoured with fans world wide and yet the same man is also much more “shot” despite both fighters being 34. In fact so similar on paper are the two men that Barrios is exactly 1 month older.
Off paper however the fighters differ hugely. Barrios has built much of his career in Argentina where he has managed to rack up various title wins including things like the lightly regarded World Boxing Union super featherweight title, the WBA Inter-Continental super featherweight title and the WBO Latino Lightweight title. Though more impressively he has managed to win the WBO super featherweight title in the USA by beating Mike Anchondo (who was then 25-0). Though Barrios’ reign was ended after only 2 defences by a controversial split decision loss to Joan Guzman he had reached the top of the world. In comparison though he looks like a boxing pauper to Morales who built his career in Mexico and then became a star in America where he would win world titles at Super Bantamweight, Featherweight and Super Featherweight. He would secure a future hall of fame slot by beating legends of the sport like Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao as well as great contemporaries such as Daniel Zaragoza, Junior Jones, Paulie Ayala, Wayne McCullough, Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez.
After a glittering career Morales hung up the gloves in 2007 after suffering 4 straight losses coming to Zahir Raheem, David Diaz and two stoppage losses to Pacquiao, before returning in early 2010. Although he looked flabby and unfit in his comeback fight before beating Limond and looking in better shape, although he looked poor for the first few rounds before shaking off the rust and beating Limond to win the WBC Silver light welterweight title. That same title is on the line for this contest between “El Terrible” and Barrios, which is possibly where the advantage stands.
Although both fighters originally turned professional much smaller than Light Welterweight, Morales is the bigger man, 2 inches taller and slightly heavier (8lbs for their last respective fights). Barrios has pretty much fought his career between 130-135 whilst Morales, in his comeback has been over 140 for both fights. The break from the ring does seem to have suited him and allowed him to recover from the damage a career of hard battles has done to him. It’s those things that make me favour Morales to win this contest. Although he has looked just a shadow of his former self so far, he has eased back into the sport and at times shown glimpses of being the fighter he once was. His aggression in the 6th round against Limond showed that there is still something in the tank, though how much is up for debate.
Although you can’t count out Barrios he’s actually been less active over the past 12 months (fighting only once against Wilson Alcorro) and this may also help favour Morales. Though both fighters will likely look sluggish to begin with with Barrios perhaps winning the first 4 rounds, you can’t help but think that Morales, in front of fans in the city where he was born will put on a show a show and get the better of Barrios in the latter 3rd of the fight. Although Barrios has been stopped twice (by Acelino Frietas and Rocky Juarez) they were both late into the fight and he is durable enough to see out plenty of hard rounds, though the extra weight and the baying Mexican fans will likely help see him off. Also I can’t help but think if Barrios wins Morales will retire for good, though a win and his dreams of being Mexico’s first ever 4 weight world champion will be a step closer to happening.
With the WBC Silver title at 140 Morales is in line for a fight with winner of Devon Alexander’s clash with Timothy Bradley, and yet also holds a high ranking with the WBA (meaning he could meet the winner of Amir Khan v Marcos Maidana). Although the odds don’t seem inviting, a 4th title is possible, especially with the way the “organisations” work. Expect the title to be stripped from Barrios if he wins though. It’s politics you see.