- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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When Danny Garcia and Erik Morales first met in March in Houston, they put on a fan-friendly fight that Garcia won quite handily.
Garcia dropped Morales in the 11th round and won a clear unanimous decision to claim a vacant junior welterweight title, which had become vacant the day before at the weigh-in when Morales hit the scale at 142 pounds, two over the division limit.
It was a clear victory for Garcia, with no controversy and no cries for a rematch. The only thing many cried for after the fight was for former four-division titleholder Morales, the Mexican legend and cinch first-ballot Hall of Famer who is well past his prime, to finally retire.
Morales, his face marked up and dejected, admitted he lost and said he would think about retiring.
Alas, he is back at age 36 and in his 19th year as a pro. Thanks to the rematch clause he had in his contract, he is looking to reclaim his old belt in a rematch with Garcia.
"I am very excited to be back in the ring and fighting Danny Garcia once again," Morales said through a translator. "He beat me the first time, but I know I have what it takes to avenge my loss. I am a veteran at learning from my mistakes and correcting them."
The fighters will meet in the main event of the inaugural card at the new $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Saturday night (Showtime, 8 ET/PT with preliminaries on Showtime Extreme at 7 ET/PT). There are four world title fights on the show -- the first in Brooklyn since Aug. 5, 1931, when light heavyweight champion Maxie Rosenbloom outpointed Jimmy Slattery over 15 rounds to retain the title at Ebbets Field.
"I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to open Barclays Center in Brooklyn," Garcia said. "They haven't had world championship boxing in Brooklyn for more than 80 years, and it's going to be a really special night for me and the rest of the fighters on the show."
But given the clear outcome of the March fight and the widely held belief that Morales is done, the rematch hadn't generated much heat, especially given that it is taking place in New York, where neither fighter has any ties. Garcia is from Philadelphia and Morales is from Mexico.
For better or worse, the fight suddenly got a big dose of spice on Thursday after it was disclosed that Morales had failed a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug test. The fight is expected to go on anyway.
A source involved in the event told ESPN.com that Morales' "A" sample tested positive for the weight-loss agent clenbuterol, but that the fight apparently will go on because Morales' "B" sample must be tested to confirm a positive "A" sample test -- a result that won't be available until after the fight.
That made for fireworks at Thursday's final news conference, where Angel Garcia, Danny's outspoken, take-no-prisoners father and trainer, was clearly agitated by the news of the failed test.
Angel took the podium and, mixing English with Spanish, proceeded to berate and curse out Morales and his father and trainer, Jose Morales, for several minutes in a stunning diatribe.
Angel Garcia dropped a number of F-bombs and yelled over and over at Jose, "Cheaters don't win, Pop!"
Suddenly, the fight got a little more interesting, even if some believe it shouldn't be taking place at all because of the drug test issue.
"It's not about me. It's about Danny," Angel Garcia said. "Sure, I have an outgoing personality and what you see at the press conferences is just me saying how I feel. It's me showing my heart. I am not trying to take the spotlight, because it really is about him as a fighter, and that's me as his coach.
"I get him ready mentally, physically and spiritually, and that is why he is going to be undefeated for a very long time."
Morales didn't address the test result, but he spoke about the opinion that many believe he ought to retire after a career filled with great battles. His trilogies with Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao were great theater. He also fought many other top opponents and has rarely been in a bad fight.
"Many might ask why I keep fighting," said Morales, who will be fighting on the East Coast for the first time. "Many of you question and ask if I do this for economic reasons. No, that's not why. I'm ready, I've worked really hard and I've done all the preparation necessary.
"Hearing what people say about me motivates me. What happened in March really hurt me, and I want to show all my hard work and dedication in the ring on Saturday."
Garcia is entering his prime at 24 and has already beaten Morales without issue. In his one fight since beating Morales in March, he knocked out heavily favored Amir Khan in the fourth round in July in a big upset to unify two of the 140-pound belts and put himself on top of the division.
As a big favorite again against Morales, Garcia has little to prove, but an even better performance this time around -- meaning a knockout -- is something he can strive for.
"I always think about the 'W,' but I feel like the first time around, the first fight, it was my first fight on a big stage," said Garcia, who is far more laid-back than his dad. "I showed [Morales] a lot of respect. Now the tables are turned and I'm the champion, he's the challenger. I'm confident and I'm ready. I feel like this fight, I'm more prepared mentally and physically.
"I always go for the knockout -- the fans love it. That's what I do, I bring knockout power. I definitely expect a win. I've been training so hard. I'm too smart and I can't see myself losing to anyone anytime soon."
Said Angel Garcia: "This time Erik Morales is going to get beat and stopped. Period."
Morales, who came out of a nearly three-year retirement in 2010, believes he still has another big fight left in him, even after all the battles and two losses in his past three fights.
"I've done tremendous preparation. I'll assure you it is going to be an explosive night," Morales said. "What you saw in March, it is definitely not what you are going to see on Saturday. I assure you I will regain my title. [Some] might ask if I am not leaving boxing because there is a resistance to leave it. I tell them no. We have it planned out, the retirement, and it will be soon.
"We're very relaxed. We're very happy with the work that we have done for this particular fight up to this moment. I'm ready. I have done a tremendous job in preparation. I have done all of the work."
Garcia, however, said he learned a lot from the last fight and will be better this time.
"Last time, I stood in front of him too long and let him think," Garcia said. "I can't let him think. I want to go in there and destroy him. That was my first big fight at such a high level, and I learned a lot from it. Morales definitely gave me a harder fight than Khan and also gave me a chance to fight for a title. If anyone deserved a rematch, it's Erik Morales for giving me the first chance. That is boxing respect."
Interest in a Danny Garcia-Erik Morales rematch was lukewarm at best, and although Morales' failed drug test adds drama to the affair, only a big upset for the Mexican legend on Saturday will create true buzz.