HOUSTON, TEXAS — With a busted nose and swollen face, a tearful Danny Garcia achieved his first title win with a hard-fought decision over Erik Morales last night at the Reliant Arena.
Morales succeeded in keeping the fight at his preferred measured pace in the first two rounds by countering Garcia with overhand rights. The young challenger stayed at mid-range hoping to catch Morales with his better hand speed rather than engaging on the inside. Garcia got into a rhythm in the third behind his jab and counter left hooks. Garcia also backed up El Terrible with several straight rights.
Morales came back in the fourth with a hard 1-2 that stopped Garcia in his tracks. Garcia returned with a right cross but was consistently back-pedaling as he tried to figure out Morales’ offense. The fifth was no better for him as Morales worked the body and landed a solid straight right inside. The older Morales was the one putting combinations together while Garcia was reduced to single shots.
The sixth was one of Garcia’s best. He badly stunned Morales with a jarring left hook. Morales stumbled to the ropes, but Garcia remained tentative to attack due to the champion’s countering ability. Garcia would land a thudding right to the body, but Morales rallied off the ropes to prevent a Garcia whitewash round. Morales showed visible fatigue in the seventh from Garcia’s body shots and also became a stationary target for jabs. However, Morales refused to be overwhelmed and landed a good overhand right to remain competitive.
After trading rounds in the eighth and ninth, Morales had a good 10th round by beating Garcia to the punch with combinations on the inside. Garcia turned the tide for good in the 11th when a slashing counter left hook dropped Morales to his knees. The champion stayed upright to the bell, but took a sustained beating of hooks from Garcia for a clear 10-8 round.
Garcia started the 12th with another big left hook that knocked Morales to the ropes. Garcia pressed for the knockout even as his apparent broken nose leaked blood. Morales would land one last sharp right hand counter before bell.
The scorecards of 118-109, 117-110 and 116-112 didn’t reflect the tough nature of the bout. Morales took a trip around the ring on his cornerman’s shoulders, perhaps symbolizing the last time El Terrible goes into the ring as a fighter. In the post-fight interview, he remained non-committal and stated he has to seriously think about his health.
The co-feature of Carlos Molina-James Kirkland featured a bizarre disqualification ending after referee Joe Schorle disqualified Molina after a cornerman came in before the end of round ten.
Molina had frustrated Kirkland the entire fight behind mauling clinches, movement and strategic potshots. Through four rounds Kirkland was completely ineffective and received a needed tongue-lashing from trainer Ann Wolfe about his focus and ability to adjust.
“You standing right in front of this son of bitch!” she criticized.
Kirkland made progress by landing single hard straight lefts and hooks inside during the middle rounds. Still, Molina would clinch every time and push Kirkland back and land his own combinations to steal rounds.
Kirkland found the range in the 10th, starting off the stanza with two hard right hooks. A hurt Molina clinched immediately but remained unsteady. Kirkland finished the round with a glancing, left hook knockdown. Molina was up and coherent, and his cornerman came in the ring to set up after the bell rang but before the mandatory eight count had finished. The referee ushered him out and finished the count. The rules call for a disqualification if a cornerman enters the ring early and after consulting with ringisde officials, Schorle disqualified Molina to loud boos from the crowd.
Ann Wolfe was seen telling Molina that he was winning the fight. In addition, Kirkland expressed willingness for an immediate rematch. Per the post-fight presser, his manager Cameron Dunkin is looking to land Kirkland a title shot against IBF titlist Cornelius “K9” Bundrage.
It’s always something when it comes to boxing in Texas. Molina was not putting on the most aesthetically pleasing bout, but he was winning and had the opportunity for the biggest win of his career snatched away from him over a stupid technicality. Sure, the rule does call for a DQ, but it’s still up to the ref’s discretion, and in this case Joe Schorle at the very least used poor judgment, and at worst deliberately screwed Molina. The cornerman coming in was an honest mistake due to the bell ringing. It had zero impact on the bout. If you recall, referee Richard Steele showed wise judgement beyond just technicalities in not DQing Floyd Mayweather when his trainer Roger jumped in the ring and started a brawl after seeing his nephew deliberately low-blowed and rabbit-punched by Zab Judah.
As for Kirkland’s performance, he looked bad… very bad. Ann Wolfe was wisely getting in his ass every round for just following Molina around and getting bullied. His team may be in for another big surprise by thinking they have a safe title win going after Bundrage.
Erik Morales gave yet another young fighter a boxing lesson tonight. You can see on Garcia’s face that he was surprised by what the old man was getting off on him. He’ll be a better fighter for it. As for Morales, it’s time to hang it up. There’s only so many times he can go to the well with these efforts. Like he said himself, Morales has his health to think about. Take an easy farewell bout in Mexico and call it a day.