|I hate to use a line from a Hollywood blockbuster to introduce this thought, but at least it comes, fittingly enough, from a tale of warriors. In Troy, when Achilles mounts his horse, the young boy trailing in his footsteps details the mighty warrior that Achilles must set out to fight.|
“I wouldn’t want to fight him,” the boy says, in awe of the hero before him. “That is why no one will remember your name,” says Achilles. Those of us enamored with the sweet science and yet unknowing of the experiences of our modern day gladiators ask such questions of them. We wonder at their courage and sometimes even venture to question their sense as they face apparently insurmountable challenges. The years yield many brave souls that come to find their limits; amidst the slivers of glory felt by a choice few, bodies break, hearts bleed and souls are lost to the cruel game. All this, however, is not enough to quell some spirits. Some men transcend all the sacrifice and wickedness of the fight game for the chance to burn their name into its history. One such man is Erik Morales.
If there is a rival for such an incomparable fighter, only Marco Antonio Barrera can claim to be Morales’. While Barrera’s story is one of a thousand resurrections, of surges to glory long thought lost, Morales’ is one of intense drive and consistency, of an unrelenting war machine tearing paths of destruction. Their three shared fights said a lot but did little to separate them. Their individual losses feel interchangeable, perhaps even irrelevant; statistics cannot decide the fate of those to whom death is an acceptable alternative to defeat. And with that in mind, Morales marches on to this weekend at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where former U.S. Olympian Zahir Raheem awaits.
The enduring facts from Raheem’s fight, and first defeat, against Rocky Juarez are that Raheem is incredibly fast and can box very well indeed. Although it feels as if Raheem is being fed to the wolves, Morales knows little else but all-out war in the ring in recent years and it will be interesting to see how he approaches Raheem’s style. Of course, Morales might approach it the simplest way: walk forward and take Raheem’s head off at the earliest possible interval in Raheem’s evasive maneuvers. While Morales is not alien to the type of boxing match that Raheem should try to instigate, a question mark lingers over Raheem’s ability to live in the hellish realm of punishment to which Morales calls home in the ring. Raheem will be flight not fight in the early going and you can expect to see Morales endure that for a while before closing the gap and snuffing out the fight around the seventh round.
Being not only a national hero but also an idol to your people is a pressure that very few fighters in the modern age have to carry. Manny Pacquiao carries such a burden. The idolization of Pacquiao by the Filipino fans can represent something of a curse at times. The mass media attention focused on Pacquiao before his fights exerts a burden that could understandably cause distractions from his preparations and that seems to be the excuse of choice at the moment for Pacquiao as he attempts to regroup from his loss to Morales this past March.
Trainer Freddie Roach insists that the doors be closed and remain so for the duration of Pacquiao’s final preparations to fight Hector Velazquez. Hopefully, that means that Pacquiao will focus on introducing greater variety to his offensive game than the simple straight left hand that is his mainstay. That lethal weapon should prove enough to dispose of a comeback opponent such as Velazquez, but not Morales whom Pacquiao is expected to face again should both emerge victorious on Saturday night. If Pacquiao does not show anything new in the ring, he will take care of Velazquez and Morales can happily eye another payday, and another win over Pacquiao down the line.
Contact Jim Cawkwell at email@example.com