Erik Morales stripped of belt

Updated: March 23, 2012, 8:16 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

HOUSTON -- Erik Morales was stripped of his junior welterweight belt when he failed to make the 140-pound limit at Friday afternoon's weigh-in for his first defense against Danny Garcia.

Morales, looking extremely drawn, weighed 142 pounds and never tried to take off the two extra pounds. Instead, he sat down immediately and began drinking water.

Garcia, who scaled 139½ pounds, can win the vacant title when he fights Morales on Saturday night (HBO, 10 ET) at Reliant Arena.

"I'm not too worried about the belt; the important thing is the fight," Morales said through translator Robert Diaz, one of Golden Boy Promotions' matchmakers. "I already won the fourth belt so it doesn't matter to me."

Morales, 35, became the first Mexican to win a world title in four weight classes in September when he knocked out late substitute Pablo Cesar Cano in the 10th round to claim a belt on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz undercard. The title was vacant because it had been stripped from Timothy Bradley Jr. when the WBC violated its rules to give Morales a shot at the title.

For being overweight, Morales (52-7, 36 KOs) will forfeit $50,000 of his $1 million purse to Garcia, who was due to make $175,000 but now will make $225,000.

"I was in position to save the fight or the belt but it's more important to save the fight," said Morales, who showed no remorse for failing to live up to his contract. "If I tried to make the weight by taking off those two pounds it would have really affected me in the fight.

"It wasn't worth the sacrifice at this point for the last couple of pounds. It would hurt me. No point."

Morales, however, said he planned to continue fighting at 140 pounds after Saturday's fight.

Garcia (22-0, 14 KOs), who will be in his first world title bout, was happy he would still have a chance to win a title but was disappointed in Morales' unprofessional attitude.

"I feel stuff like this hurts the sport of boxing and I love boxing," Garcia, 24, of Philadelphia, said. "For me, it's still a championship fight but I believe what he did is a disrespect to boxing and to boxing fans. The first fight every boxer has is to make weight and he didn't do it and I did. Now all I have to do is go out there and beat him up."

Garcia was pleased that he would get a nice bump in his pay for the trouble.

"I do this for the love of the game, but if they want to give me extra money, sure, I'll take it," he said.

Junior middleweight contenders James Kirkland (30-1, 27 KOs) of Austin, Texas, and Chicago's Carlos Molina (19-4-2, 6 KOs), who square off in the HBO opener, both weighed 153¾ pounds for their 154-pound maximum fight.

In an untelevised fight, former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo -- who has a lengthy history of failing to make weight -- missed again for his welterweight fight against Jose Cotto, the older brother of junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto, and the fight was canceled.

Cotto (32-3-1, 24 KOs) scaled 144½ pounds for the bout that was contracted at a maximum of 145 pounds. Castillo (63-11-1, 54 KOs), only on the card as a favor to his pal Morales, was not close. Castillo weighed 147¾ pounds.

It was another chapter in the long history of Castillo's inability or unwillingness to meet his contractual obligations.

Twice he missed weight for high-profile televised lightweight title fights against the late Diego Corrales, for their second fight and for the third fight. The third fight was canceled when he did not make the 135-pound limit and resulted in multiple lawsuits. Castillo also blew the 140-pound limit for a title eliminator against Bradley and the fight was canceled.

Cotto and his team spent time after the weigh-in talking over whether he would go through with the fight. They decided he would not because of the weight disadvantage, Cotto attorney Gabriel Peñagarícano told ESPN.com. Cotto already was giving up weight as he usually fights in a smaller division.

"Castillo is a disgrace," Peñagarícano said.

Cotto was due to make $15,000 and could have expected a chunk of Castillo's $25,000 purse had he gone through with the fight.