Sunday, February 11, 2007


Try going several hours without eating. Then try going half the day. The hunger pangs will set in. Then try an entire day. The floor begins to feel shaky and you feel unsteady on your feet. Then try two days or three days. Hallucinations begin to infiltrate your mind and it’s a struggle just to rise from a sitting position.

Only then can you begin to imagine the pain of what Erik Morales has gone through while he has strained to make his cadaverous body fit into a 130-pound suit that is bursting at the seams.

HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant once said of Erik Morales when he was fighting as a stick- thin 122-pound super bantamweight that, "He has the bodyfat of a nail." Morales is still stick thin and he is again paring himself down in his preparations to face Manny Pacquiao in their rubber match this Saturday night in Las Vegas.

This time Morales says it will be easier because he has gone from the old school to the new school with his training regimen.

In an effort to get his escalating weight under control, Morales turned to Velocity Sports Performance in Los Angeles, which is owned by training guru Chuck Debus, who has placed more athletes on Olympic and World Championship Teams than any coach in history. "You are what you train", says Debus. "If you wanna’ be fast, you gotta’ train fast. If you wanna’ be quick you gotta’ train quick."

It’s Debus that Morales, at age 30, has come to in the twilight of his career for the scientifically designed training programs, state-of-the art training facilities and highly educated coaches. It’s a far cry from the downstairs gym in the Tijuana, Mexico family home where Morales cut his fistic teeth.

Morales is philosophical and pragmatic about the reasons for changing his training regimen and explains it away flippantly, "Fundamentally, it was the weight", he says. "But the age, time, the routine…it’s good to mix it up." What Erik Morales doesn’t tell you is that without Debus and his scientifically designed routines he likely would never have stepped on a scale and looked down to see it read 130 pounds ever again.

Morales’ radical move was a last ditch attempt to save a hall of fame career that was becoming marred not because of battles against opponents, but because of battles against the scales and his own appetite.

Morales has lost three of his last four bouts and he credits two of the losses not to his opponents - but to his battles with his weight. His ill-thought foray into the 135-pound lightweight division resulted in a twelve round unanimous decision loss to the unheralded Zahir Raheem. His very next fight was the 10th round technical knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao in their second fight.

Many were calling for Morales to retire after the successive losses to Raheem and Pacquiao, but the proud Morales would not hear of it and so here we are Saturday night in Las Vegas for the third meeting between the two 130-pound firecrackers.

Morales has always been an intense and extremely proud fighter who will never admit that any opponent has ever gotten the better of him. In many respects he’s the Mexican version of 1970’s tough guy actor Robert Conrad, who once appeared in a famous television commercial for Eveready batteries with the little battery perched on his shoulder. Conrad glared into the camera and said, "Go ahead, I dare ya." Conrad was daring you to knock the battery and the enormous chip of his shoulder, much like Morales is daring Pacquiao and the rest of boxing world to show him that he is finished.

Even though Morales was beaten up and humbled into a convincing defeat in his second fight against Pacquiao, he did win many of the early rounds before the strain of making weight caught up with him as much as the punches of Pacquiao did. Morales is almost as famous for his excuses as he is for his boxing accomplishments, "I hit him with some good punches. Then I hit a wall. I paid for the effort it took to make weight," claims Morales. He will often cavalierly dismiss the loss in the second fight to Pacquiao. Morales only wants to discuss his winning the first fight and says of Pacquiao’s punching power in that fight, "He didn’t have the power to do anything to me. He never really had the power to hit me hard and make me feel his strength."

Clearly, Morales believes that he will be more fit and thus stronger on Saturday night. Many believe he will have to be or he might just have to call it a career. "For Erik, basically he wins this fight or that’s that. He won’t appear at this level of the sport again", says HBO boxing blow-by-blow commentator Jim Lampley who called the first two Morales vs. Pacquiao fights from ringside.

As for Pacquiao, when he was asked for his views on Morales’ new high tech training methods he seemed unconvinced that it will help much. "I think it’s going to help him make his weight…but Morales is training hard to make weight and training hard to win. That’s a lot for a fighter to do."

Pacquiao’s trainer, the brilliant Freddie Roach, seems unconvinced that Morales’ new training regimen is going to help him do any better on Saturday night. Roach has lost no love for Morales and he sees Morales as disrespectful and confrontational. In the weeks leading up to Saturday night Morales weighed in before a large group of assembled media in an effort to dispel the rumors that he would have a hard time making the 130-pound limit this time around. Morales tipped the scales at 142 pounds and appeared fit, solid and healthy.

For his part, Roach remains unconvinced about Morales’ weight struggles and he had some words for Erik to chew on. "My goodness. I have never seen so many people surround one man to make sure he eats so little," commented Roach who was comparing his old school training methods against Morales’ team of personal trainers and diet gurus. "That was no weigh-in, it was a Weight Watchers meeting," chuckled Freddie. "I don't know what Velocity has on his menu, but I guarantee you on November 18th, Manny will be serving Erik a steady diet of Reyes leather all night long until he can eat no more."

Just one question: How many calories are there in an eight-ounce boxing glove?

November 2006

No comments: