Erik Morales doesn’t care what any of us say – that the once-great champion is done and that he should no longer be fighting.
He made his opinion crystal clear on Wednesday at the news conference in Monterrey, Mexico, where promoter Fernando Beltran of Zanfer Promotions formally announced Morales’ welterweight fight with Jorge Paez Jr., son of the former lightweight titlist.
“Many criticize me or ask me, ‘Why do I keep on boxing at my age and after everything I’ve accomplished?’ I tell them that I am pursuing a dream,” Morales said in comments translated from Spanish. “I’d like to achieve a few more things. I don’t want to go back to my house wondering, ‘Why didn’t I try it?’ And even if I face a hungry young challenger, I need to win to achieve my dream.
“In my last fight I made a mistake and I learned. I will show that on March 22 against Paez. I don’t sell laughs, I sell my talent and technique and big fights, and that’s what it will be in the Arena Monterrey.”
Morales (52-9, 36 KOs), the 37-year-old former four-division titlist, is well past his best days He has lost three of his last four fights and has not fought since October 2012, when he suffered a harrowing fourth-round knockout loss in a rematch with junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia.
Before the knockout loss to Garcia, Morales disgraced himself when he failed multiple pre-fight USADA-conducted random drug tests. He tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol but, in a shameful act, the New York State Athletic Commission allowed the fight to go forward.
After the fight, Morales was banned by USADA, but the punishment carries no weight in Mexico, where Morales is free to fight.
So he will take on 26-year-old Paez (37-4-1, 22 KOs) – 15 years after Morales fought on the same 1999 card with Paez Sr. Paez Jr., of course, is very motivated to beat Morales, no matter how shot he is.
“I am highly motivated to face a great figure in the boxing world like Erik Morales and I thank him for giving me a chance,” Paez said. “I am preparing as never before. It will be a great fight and I’ll take advantage of this great opportunity. I absolutely respect him outside the ring, but the night of the fight there will be no respect and it’ll be a memorable fight for the fans.”
Paez said he is dedicating the fight to the memory of his cousin, Frankie Leal, and Oscar Gonzalez, two Mexican fighters who died as a result of brain injuries in Mexico. Leal died in October and Gonzalez died earlier this month.
Beltran also announced at the news conference that strawweight titlist Merlito Sabillo (23-0-1, 12 KOs) of the Philippines would defend his belt against Mexico’s Francisco Rodriguez (13-2, 9 KOs) in the co-feature.