LAS VEGAS – Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao erased all doubts of his dominance with a third round demolition of Mexico’s great Erik “El Terrible” Morales at the Thomas and Mack Center on Saturday. It might be the end for Morales.
It was the third meeting between the two little giants and Pacquiao (43-3-2, 33 KOs) repeated his last fight with a knockout over Morales (48-5, 24 KOs) for the second time in a year. This time 18,276 people showed up, the second largest in the Las Vegas arena’s history. The crowd seemed to be evenly split for the two prizefighters.
Though a minor title was awarded to the victor, there was much more at stake considering two boxing nations such as the Philippines and Mexico take massive pride in their boxer’s accomplishments. Before the fight began, thousands of fans engaged in flag waving and cheers for their fighters. Even the singing of the national anthems had significance.
Pacquiao and Morales began the first round slowly as each gauged the other’s speed and strength. Toward the end of the first round, Pacquiao opened up and Morales answered.
The next round saw both open up with their big guns, but a left hand counter by the Filipino fighter dropped Morales on the seat of his pants. He got up and exchanged vicious blows with Pacquiao.
“He was surprised by my right hook. I hurt him in the second round,” said Pacquiao, who trained for all three fights with Morales in Hollywood. “I knew in that round that I really hurt him.”
Morales looked to win back the momentum and stepped up his attack, but a right hook shocked the Tijuana boxer and a left hand follow up knocked down Morales for the second time in the fight. He jumped up at the count of eight but found the speedy Pacquiao’s volume of punches much too blinding and held on. That only resulted in a brief respite, a long left hand by the Filipino finished off Morales who was counted out by referee Vic Drakulich at 2:57 of the third round.
“I expected a long tough fight,” Pacquiao said. “I thank God nobody was hurt. That’s what I prayed for.”
Before the fight Morales had sought help from a strength and conditioning gym in Santa Monica. But though he made the required 130-pound limit, nothing could stop Pacquiao from steamrolling him flat.
“Pacquiao was too much,” said Morales, adding that his corner yelled for him to get up in the third round. “But you need to know when you’re beaten. I was beaten tonight.”
After the fight, Morales walked up to Pacquiao to shake his hand and bow to his victor. Morales had won their first encounter but was knocked out the next two meetings.
“If I fight again it will be in Tijuana,” Morales said.
For Pacquiao, two boxing promotion companies are fighting for the right to promote the popular Filipino.
In the first of two Filipino versus Mexican matchups, Omar Nino (24-2-2) survived and somehow received a majority draw despite suffering two knockdowns at the hands of former WBC junior flyweight titleholder Brian Viloria (19-1-1, 12 KOs).
Nino, who captured the title last May against Viloria, was dropped with right hands in the fifth and ninth round. But judge Dave Moretti gave Nino a 115-112 score. The other two judges scored it 113-113.
“What’s left for me to do?” asked Viloria, who felt he was the victor.
Many observers felt Viloria won five of the first six rounds including the two-point knockdown, but none of the judges saw it that way.
A featherweight bout between two Mexico City fighters pit the veteran Marcos Licona (23-9-1) against the new kid on the block Juan Carlos Salgado (17-0-1, 13 KOs). The new kid Salgado emerged with a unanimous victory 60-54 twice and 59-54. Licona suffered a bad cut from an accidental head butt in the fourth round.
The WBO junior welterweight title bid between Colombia’s Ricardo Torres (30-1, 27 KOs) and Greek-American Mike Arnaoutis (17-1-1, 9 KOs) ended in a split-decision victory for Torres. Though he was decked by a left-right combination in the seventh round, Torres managed to rally during the second half of the 12-round affair and grab the title vacated by Miguel Cotto.
“I’m disappointed. I felt I did enough,” said Arnaoutis who suffered his first career loss. “It was a close fight.”
Torres said he damaged his right hand around the third round.
“If I had not injured my hand I could have done a lot better,” Torres said. “I had to do more boxing. I won this fight with one hand.”
Fernando Beltran Jr. (28-2-1, 17 KOs) won by disqualification against Edel Ruiz (27-16-5, 16 KOs) after referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight at 2:00 of the fourth round for repeated low blows. Both fighters are junior featherweights from Mexico.