By Michele Chong
I gotta say it was a terrible day in L.A. yesterday.
With over 90 degree temps in the city, the sweaty tourists that packed the narrow rows of crammed vendors in the historic Olvera Street plaza had a terrible time staying cool right in the midst of hot and humid downtown Los Angeles. Most were having a terrible time trying to make their way through the throngs of people that clogged the venerable landmark.
And for us in the boxing community, it was truly a “terrible” day indeed as the L.A. fight crowd gave a terrific welcome to “El Terrible” himself–Erik Morales, who was in town to talk about his upcoming bout versus Willie Limond on September 11 in Mexico City. And judging from the big turnout at the El Paseo Inn at Olvera Street, the former WBC and IBF champion still draws a huge interest from the fight fraternity and fans.
Flanked by the promoters and executives from Grupo Empresarial Matiz and Integrated Sports Media, Morales (49-6, 34 KOs) looked like he’s taking his training seriously. In the recent couple of years, the boxer has taken potshots for his weight gain and expanding waistline, but at yesterday’s press conference, the 33-year-old definitely looked slimmer. Wearing a custom sweatsuit that had Erik “Terrible” Morales embroidered on both the jacket and pant leg of it, the Mexican slugger spoke to the media assembled.
With fight emcee Benny Ricardo translating for the popular warrior, Morales said he looks forward to this upcoming return to the ring as he headlines ”Mexican Fiesta.” Should he be triumphant against Limond, his Scottish challenger from Glasgow with a 33-2 and 8 KO ledger, this would be Erik’s 50th career win.
After his last four defeats at the hands of Manny Pacquiao (twice), David Diaz and Zahir Raheem, Morales took a two and a half year layoff, during which the boxer himself admits to enjoying a “normal” life without the strict disciplines and meager meals that the sweet science usually affords.
“For two years I was able to eat, drink and enjoy life!” the fierce boxer, who’s defeated both Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera, commented with a smile. “I got to do everything I wasn’t able to do in the last ten years.” During his career, Morales was victorious over 15 world champs, winning seven titles in five different weight classes. His last fight against Jose Alfaro (which was broadcast in the background during the presser) took place in March for Monterrey WBC Intercontinental Welterweight title at 147.
For the September 11 showdown, it will be a contest for the vacant WBC Diamond Super Lightweight belt.
So will he fight at 140?
Morales said he’ll listen to his own body if he’ll fight at 140 or 145. “I’m eating right, taking vitamins and will be at my ideal weight,” he added. Erik also said while in camp he’s been running one and a half hours during training and sparring with both welterweights and lightweights.
The hard-hitting Tijuana specialist, who will turn 34 on September 1, explained that he’s very confident in his second return to the ring this year as his translator stated, “He’s not kidding himself that he can do it his way. He’s still a young man, a young fighter, but very experienced.”
“El Terrible” also made a point by stating, “It’s not a comeback for money.” His September battle at Monumental Plaza de Toros will be aired on PPV ($29.99) in the U.S. by Integrated Sports Media and is a Grupo Empresarial Matiz promotion. It looks to be a full undercard lined up as well, including bouts between Edgar Sosa vs. Andrea Sarritzu, Juan Carlos Burgos vs. Joan de Guai, Ann Marie Torres vs. Alesia Graf, Daniel Estrada vs. Rey Sanchez and Ramon Ayala vs. Armando Cordoba, and more.
Saying boxing is what he loves to do, it’s what he does best, Morales took time toward the end of his time at the podium to thank the L.A. media for all their support through the years.
After the press conference ended, the down-to-earth boxer even took time to pose and sign autographs for some loyal fans that had patiently waited for their chance to meet the Mexican warrior.
And before leaving the event, I caught up with a couple of fighters also lending their support to Erik Morales’ September 11 battle. Aalan Martinez (yes, he said his name is spelled Aalan) is the brother of boxer Aaron Martinez. The 126-pounder (8-0-1, 4 KOs) will be fighting this Friday in Utah. He came out to welcome “El Terrible” with pals Adolfo Perez Jr., Adolfo Perez Sr. and Raul Esquivel, who are all involved with their new Universal Boxing Hall of Fame.
Also caught up with Jose ”Pollo” Hernandez, a fighter and a fight photographer, who will be duking it out on October 17 in Long Beach. And after chatting with Benny Frank a bit, I was greeted by Henry Vega, a big boxing supporter and L.A. businessman, as we made our way over to meet Xavier Gonzalez, Vice President of AYM Sports.
Vega, who just had an event with boxers Alfonso Gomez and Daniel Ponce de Leon last Friday night, told us he’s really looking forward to the return of “El Terrible.” “He will be headlining the Bicentennial Mexican celebration and will be facing the toughest fighters,” Henry said. “He’s a fan favorite and I think their pay-per-view will do well.”
“I am glad to see him back after a long pause and break; he looks determined,” an enthusiastic Vega continued. “It’s not like Erik to be mediocre. I would like to eventually see him face the likes of Amir Khan and Juan Manuel Marquez. I wish him lots of luck; he is a true diplomat on and off the ring!”
On September 11, fans will see if “El Terrible” proves once again that he’s still got it. If he does, look for foe Willie Limond to have a “terrible” time against one of Mexico’s most beloved and truly “terrific” fighters.