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Preview: Erik Morales vs. Manny Pacquiao

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Updated March 15, 2005
Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao square off on March 19 and it will shock no one if their battle produces an early candidate for fight of the year. All 14,500 seats at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas are expected top be sold at prices of up to $400. And HBO will likely generate great pay-per-view “buys” - even at $44.95 a pop - as both fighters have huge, loyal followings in their native countries (Mexico and the Philippines, respectively).

So what’s going to happen when these two superstars meet in the ring? Oddsmakers have made Pacquiao a 6-5 betting favorite and results against common opponent Marco Antonio Barrera would seem to support that line. Barrera was awarded the decision in two of his three epic battles with Morales but was completely dominated by Pacquiao. Advantage Pacquiao.

The Morales-Pacquiao bout will be fought at 130 pounds. Pacquiao weighed 106 for his first pro fight and has never tipped the scales above 126. Morales started out at 123 and weighed in at 130 for each of his last four bouts. Advantage Morales.

Morales stands 5’8” and has a 72” reach. Pacquiao is 5’6” with a 67” reach. Advantage Morales.

Pacquiao is 26 years old with 43 professional fights under his belt (39-2-2, 31 knockouts). At 28, Morales is only two years older than Pacquiao but Morales is an old 28 with many fierce battles among his 49 pro bouts (47-2, 34 KOs). Plus, Morales is less than four months removed from a physically and emotionally draining loss to arch rival Marco Antonio Barrera in his last bout – a bout in which Morales often appeared sluggish and unable to get his punches off. Advantage Pacquiao.

Morales, having demonstrated the ability to either box or brawl with equal success, is a “complete” fighter. Pacquiao employs a more one-dimensional style but what a dimension it is! Pound-for-pound, Pacquiao is perhaps the most devastating puncher in the sport today. Just ask Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Fahsan 3K Battery, who were collectively sent to the canvas a total of nine times in Pacquiao’s last three fights. So Morales has the edge in boxing ability while Pacquiao gets the nod in the power department. And therein lies the key to this fight – whichever man is able to dictate the style of fight will likely emerge the victor.

Morales needs to use his reach and superior boxing skills to jab and keep Pacquiao at a safe distance to avoid getting hit with clean shots. Pacquiao needs to do what he does best – put relentless pressure on Morales and draw him into a brawl which will neutralize Morales’ advantages. As good as Morales is, he sometimes lacks discipline in the ring and can be lured into fighting a style which is not to his advantage. The moment of truth in this fight will be when Pacquiao lands a clean shot or two on Morales. If, at that point, Morales is able to stick to boxing he can win on points. But the bet here is that once Morales is hit, his warrior heart will take over and the game plan will go out the window. Based on his track record, it’s hard to envision Morales being able to resist the temptation to trade punches with his smaller opponent. That’s great news for fight fans who love action, but bad news for Morales. Prediction: Pacquiao by TKO in 11.

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