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MoralesMaidana_Hoganphotos2Did Maidana underestimate Morales? Is Maidana overrated? There are some questions still lingering in our minds after “Action Heroes” but one thing we do know: Morales deserves credit for performing at a high level. (Hogan Photos)

LAS VEGAS-Argentina’s Marcos Maidana pulled out a majority decision over Mexico’s Erik “El Terrible” Morales, whose heroic effort surprised many but not himself on Saturday. Many are calling it the Fight of the Year.

Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) brought in the old Tijuana crowd to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas who arrived with mostly hopes and dreams of a far-fetched victory over Maidana (30-2, 27 KOs. It turned out to be more reality than fiction.

Morales survived three rounds of onslaught and an egg-sized bump alongside his right eye and managed to rally from the fifth round on with pinpoint accuracy.

Maidana felt he had all but knocked out Morales in the first three rounds but the wily Mexican proved very slippery. Power shots rained all over from Maidana but he just couldn’t find Morales enough.

The fourth round saw Morales connect with a combination and send Maidana looking to survive.

“Morales is a strong fighter, he should continue to fight,” Maidana said. “He had a lot of technique and was very fast.”

Maidana said “it was my toughest fight ever.”

Morales seemed to catch up to the Argentine by the 10th  round.

“I think it was a close fight but not a clean win for him. I think I won the fight and I threw the better punches,” said Morales. “After I saw him fight I knew I had the speed and velocity but more important the dignity.”

Morales asked for a rematch and Maidana concurred.

The judges scored it 114-114 (Dick Hauck) a draw, and Jerry Roth and Adelaide Byrd scored it 116-112 for Maidana.

HBO Latino will air the fight on Friday April 15.

Guerrero vs. Katsidis

Guerrero out-slugged Michael Katsidis for 12 rounds of a savage lightweight bout that was marred with point deductions for late hits and low blows. Guerrero’s more accurate combinations proved a marked difference as the Aussie attempted to wear down the Northern Californian with body shots that ultimately resulted in point deductions in round eight.

Round five was Guerrero’s best round as he wobbled and nearly felled Katsidis with a left hand that beat the Aussie to the punch. Katsidis staggered around as Guerrero chased but he was able to maneuver away from further danger.

Both fighters showed extreme resilience as they fought furiously in the last four rounds. Guerrero was deducted a point in round nine for hitting on the break but it didn’t matter in the end. All three judges scored it widely for Guerrero who wins the interim WBA and WBO lightweight titles.

“I fought his fight but sometimes you have to do that,” said Guerrero. “I beat him at his own game.”

All three judges scored it for Guerrero 118-106, 118-107, 117-108.

Ishida Upsets Kirkland

Japan’s Nobuhiro Ishida (23-6-2, 8 KOs) apparently didn’t care about James Kirkland’s (27-1, 24 KOs) punching power and won an exchange to floor the Texan early in round one. Two more knockdowns finished the job for the Japanese middleweight with the final knockdown coming by a one-two combination at 1:52 with referee Joe Cortez stopping the middleweight fight.

“He didn’t respect me so he ran into my punches,” said Ishida.

Kirkland felt the fight was stopped prematurely.

“I’m good,” said Kirkland. “I wanted to fight.”

After the fight Ishida walked up and down the aisles of the Garden Arena with a Japanese flag and took bows and congratulations from all of the fans. He was a big hit with people in the stands.

Malignaggi Beats Big Cotto

Brooklyn’s Paul Malignaggi (29-4, 6 KOs) was wobbled in the first round by a Jose Cotto (32-3-1, 24 KOs) left hook then slipped into jabbing gear and separated himself from the marauding Boricua. Four, five and six-punch combinations by Malignaggi kept Cotto on defense for most of the 10-round fight. Though cut on the side of both eyes Malignaggi kept his eye on the prize and showed world class skills in using the jab in-between Cotto’s shots. All three judges scored it a wide margin for Malignaggi 99-91 twice and 97-93.

What most people didn’t know is the former junior welterweight world champion hurt both hands on Cotto’s head.

“I was planning to box him for the first four rounds then go after him. But I think I broke my left hand,” said Malignaggi. “I wanted to make a statement.”

Cotto felt the scores were off.

“He kept moving and I kept pressuring,” said Cotto. “I didn’t think the scores were right.”

Garcia vs. Campbell

Young stud Danny “Swift” Garcia (21-0, 14 KOs) beat always dangerous Nate “Galaxxy Warrior” Campbell (33-8-1, 25 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a junior welterweight match. Campbell withstood the early onslaught but just couldn’t generate enough punches to keep up with Garcia after 10 rounds but the former lightweight world champion had his moments.

Other bouts

Canada’s Mikael Zewski (9-0, 5 KOs) won by split decision over California’s Clint Coronel (4-2-2) after six rounds of a junior middleweight match. Coronel fired more blows but Zewski hit harder. Two judges liked the harder blows though Coronel did seem to stun Zewski twice in the six round bout. Tim Cheatham 60-54, Ricardo Ocasio 59-55 for Zewski. Herb Santos scored 60-54 for Coronel.

Russia’s Rakhim Chakhliev (9-0, 7 KOs) knocked out Detroit’s Harvey Jolly (12-16-1) at 2:18 of the third round of a cruiserweight clash. Jolly was floored with a body shot in round two. The end came apparently from a glancing blow behind the ear of Jolly.

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