On This Day: Erik Morales deemed badly equipped to beat Naseem Hamed after lacklustre win

Erik Morales (L) of Tijuana, Mexico blocks a punch by WBC featherweight champion Guty Espadas Jr. of Merida, Mexico during the fourth round of their WBC featherweight title fight at the MGM Grand Conference Center February 17, 2001 in Las Vegas. The undefeated Morales, a former WBC super bantamweight champion, took the title from Espadas by unanimous decision after 12 rounds.
Sam Corbishley reflects on "El Terrible's" win over Guty Espadas that failed to impress Emanuel Steward
  1. ERIK MORALES, 39-0, challenged Guty Espadas Jnr, 33-2, for the latter’s WBC featherweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday 17 February 2001. The winner of this fight was on course to meet the winner of the Naseem HamedMarco Antonio Barrera bout in a big-money match later in the year.LISTEN – to new and exclusive Naseem Hamed interview where he discusses Barrera fight
  2. ‘EL TERRIBLE’ was looking for his 40th consecutive victory in an eight-year career which had already seen him claim both the WBC and WBO super bantamweight titles. This was Espadas’ second defence of the title he had won against Luisito Espinosa in April 2001.
  3. A BOUT between these two was originally scheduled for the previous September, but it was postponed due to a shoulder injury sustained by the champion. Instead, Morales destroyed Kevin Kelley inside seven rounds for the interim belt.
  4. BOXING NEWS observed in their preview that ‘Erik is solid in every department – hard puncher with a solid chin and excellent stamina – and though Espadas should try bravely to keep his crown, the belt should change hands in about eight.’
  5. IN the opening round, the champion made things uncomfortable for Morales by coming forward with a surprisingly quick jab and remained in control throughout the next two rounds until Morales finally started to box in the fourth. The crowd of 2,713, expecting the same fireworks as Morales-Barrera a year before, were already starting to boo by this point.
  6. THEY say styles make fights and the styles of these two boxers was making for a very dull affair as neither let their hands go, instead opting to land single shots on the counter. The mostly-Mexican crowd had come for blood and guts and they finally got their wish in the seventh when Guty slammed a good right counter onto Morales’ jaw, but as he came forward, Morales met him head-on sparking a furious exchange which was only ended by the bell to end the round.
  7. THE fans’ joy was short lived as Morales went back to fighting on the back foot for the next three rounds and Espadas seemed to be doing enough to win the rounds just by coming forward, with Morales’ only success being a couple of single booming rights at the end of the ninth and in the 10th.
  8. ANOTHER hard right followed by a right counter from Morales took the 11th as the champion seemed to lose focus. Before the final round, both corners were aware of how close the fight was. Espadas’ corner implored their man: “You need to knock him out!” In the opposite corner, Morales’ father/trainer Jose pleaded: “Please, you have to do something.”
  9. IT was Espadas who came out to win the round with a hard right followed by a flurry of uppercuts. He clearly did enough to win the final round, but not the fight. Boxing News stated that it was hard to see how Guty did not win at least six rounds, while the three judges scored the fight 116-112 twice and 115-113, all for Morales.
  10. MORALES said: “I thought I landed more punches and outboxed him.” According to the punch stats it was actually the champion who landed more by 220 to 158, throwing 39 more than the challenger. Espadas said: “The decision was in the hands of the judges. In my heart I know I won.” During his colour commentary for HBO Emanuel Steward said: “It was bad scoring. He’ll never beat Naz the way he keeps going straight back.”Days and days of ON THIS DAY

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