He’s 29 going on 62 in fight years, which is how it is sometimes in the prize ring. It’s not the years, it’s the bumpy ride.
As a fighter, some of your best days and weeks and years are stripped away every time you go 10 or 12 hard rounds. Suddenly, you find yourself on the canvas in the middle of the ring with a stunned smile on your face and no answers, your history bleeding out of a gash over your eye.
Maybe Erik Morales’ best days as a fighter have already been witnessed, applauded and recorded. Three losses in his last four fights? That isn’t a bump in the road, it’s a cold shower, a hard slap in the face. It’s a cruel, all-too-early wakeup call that tells you maybe it’s time to change jobs.
Sure, Morales can still beat most of the best lightweights and super-featherweights out there. But is that going to be enough for him? Is that the way he wants it, to be great but not the greatest?
Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, the three-time world champion fought another good fight, but this time, there just wasn’t enough of him left to go the distance.
Maybe it was the 130-pound super-featherweight limit he struggled to make that brought him down. Maybe it was just a bad night. Or maybe it was just too much Manny Pacquiao. The scrappy Filipino did what no one has ever done before; he spanked Morales and sent him home early.
Maybe it’s just been too many wars for El Terrible.
It was a fairly close fight up until the 10th round. But that’s when Pacquiao did his best work of the night, knocking Morales down twice in the round before referee Kenny Bayless wisely waved him off and signaled the fight over.
The loss by Morales tied the score at 1-1, Morales beating Pacquiao by decision last March. But that was a fight. This was a late-hour licking.
There’s a rematch clause, but there’s no reason to bring that up now. We don’t need to see a trilogy this time. Pacquiao shouldn’t take the rematch and Morales shouldn’t want it.
It seems wrong that your legendary career appears to be on the rocks before you celebrate your 30th birthday. If Morales was a 29-year-old ballplayer, he’d be in his prime. If he was a politician, he’d be a whiz kid. If he was a rock star, he’d still be dating high school prom queens.
But he’s a 29-year-old fighter with 52 fights, and they didn’t all come easy. On top of that, he started his pro career at 16. That’s 13 years of professional fighting, which is so different than the amateurs.
“I was tired because of making weight,” Morales was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “And I was tired because of all the tough fights I’ve had.”
Yeah, they’re still out there, those tough fights from his past. They never completely go away. Instead, they just seem to come back and haunt fighters, steal a few precious minutes of stamina that used to be there. Leave you feeling you’ve got nothing.
Morales said as the rounds went on, he was getting more and more tired and at the end, he said he felt slow.
And he looked it.
Maybe the bumpy ride is almost over.