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2011 Fight of the Year??

At the MGM in Las Vegas Saturday night, Erik Morales entered the ring a 6-1 underdog against Argentine Marcos Maidana (30-2), seemingly the only person among the 7,154 in attendance who believed he could win. By the final bell, Morales (51-7) made believers of them all, though it will have to wait for another night. The majority decision came down against the Mexican legend (114-114, 112-116, and 112-116).

After the fight, Morales was asked about the future of his career to which he replied, "Revancha" (Rematch), to thunderous applause from the crowd. He continued, "I think I won the fight. I thought I had the better punches and I was the better fighter tonight." Maidana (30-2), hearing Morales, walked back across the ring and said to Morales, "Anytime. If you want, we can do it tomorrow." Maidana's words appeared less spoken with spite and more with honor. The high road is always easier after adding a digit to the victory column. Compubox recorded 1,513 punches between the fighters, but the quantity of heart poured in, particularly by Morales, is estimable.

Morales and Maidana battled for the vacant WBA Interim Super lightweight title, the exact same title the Argentine won against Victor Ortiz (who fights Andre Berto next Saturday on HBO for his welterweight belt). Saturday's slugfest contained nearly as many reversals of fortune, though neither man hit the canvas (compared to the five knockdowns between Maidana and Ortiz in their fight).

As Maidana marched into the ring to Metallica's "Seek and Destroy," the air reeked of Morales' retirement. Within one round, Maidana had the six-time champion's right eye nearly sealed shut. It seemed the most valiant part of Morales' fight would be the highlight reel shown prior to the bout. Both fighters wore Winning gloves, clearly a concession from the puncher Maidana. The last time such a strong puncher conceded to use Winning with Morales was Manny Pacquiao in his loss to the Mexican in 2006. The gloves proved again auspicious, but their luck had ultimately worn off.

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In the first round, chants from the audience of "Méjico" gave way to chants of "Morales" in the second, as if the crowd wished to disassociate themselves from the imminent destruction they saw befalling their countrymen. Before this fight, Maidana asserted of Morales, "He's not at his prime any more.  I'm in my prime.  I think that's going to be the difference." But a man's prime can only fade with experience, and it was precisely that seasoning that Morales used to pick off Maidana's blows and counter-punch with precision. A graphic was flashed for the audience that past six rounds Maidana was 2-2 and Morales 22-5. For a moment, it appeared experience might vanquish youth. A one-eyed Morales schooled the brawler seven years his junior. Maidana was forced to feed on a sizable quantity of Morales' leather (although the Argentine's face is impervious to show of injury).

In the final half of the fight, chants began to revert to "Méjico!" This time, the calls seemed to be out of pride. Eventually, as Morales returned fire with fire over countless exchanges, the crowd would revert, again, to shouting "Morales!" This time, they seemed to be of disassociation once more, but of a different kind of shame - of not being worthy. It was a brave performance from Morales, dusted with skill or glittering in moments peaking out from years of rust, depending on how you saw it.

In the past, Morales often needed to have the fight beat out of him, and Maidana's overhand right was the perfect way to bring out the luster from a faded man. If a rematch occurs, no one would be disappointed. This is a certain contender for fighter of the year. Having failed to demolish Morales, Maidana made a complete joke of an already far-fetched rumor that he might soon face Floyd Mayweather. At his training session last week at Las Vegas' Pound 4 Pound Boxing Club, Maidana's manager Sebastien Contursi said that in all likelihood Maidana will return to Argentina to fight a tune-up before politicians in anticipation of the upcoming elections there.

On the undercard for the WBA and WBO interim titles, lightweight Robert Guerrero advanced to 29-1-1 over Michael Katsidis, who drops his second fight in row after getting knocked out by WBA super champion and WBO champion Juan Manuel Marquez. The southpaw Guerrero fought well through Katsidis' onslaughts, though does not appear at Marquez's level. A fight against WBA champion Brandon Rios would be highly entertaining, though the inability to get their respective promoters to the table in Golden Boy (Guerrero) and Top Rank (Rios) will likely prove an insurmountable round block.

Just weeks after HBO's Max Kellerman proposed rising prospect James Kirkland as the opponent best suited to dethrone middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, Kirkland was knocked out in the first round by the unheralded Nobuhiro Ishida. Kirkland went down three times after just 15 punches had landed on him. All 15 were power shots. After serving his second prison stint, this fight was supposedly part of his rebuilding toward a world title. It is hard to say if Kirkland's first loss is a setback or the extinguishing of his great potential. It will all depend on what Morales showed us so valiantly against Maidana: heart.

Compubox recorded 1,513 punches between the fighters, but the quantity of heart poured in, particularly by Morales, is estimable.

Posted 12:00 AM | Apr 9, 2011

Erik Morales vs Marcos Maidana

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Guerrero vs. Katsidis

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