Erik Morales: ‘El Terrible’ A Biography

Erik Morales
Date of Birth:September 1, 1976
Place of Birth:Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
Gym(s): ZNT Boxing, Box Latino gym *his own*.
Location: Tijuana, Tijuana
Manager: Jose Morales (1993-2012)
Trainer(s): Jose Morales (1993-2005 2006-2007 2010-2012), Jose Luis Lopez Sr. (2005-2006 first Pacquiao rematch only)
Boxing Career: Amateur, Professional, Promoter, and Politician
Nicknames: El Terrible (The Terrible)
Height: 5 Ft 8 inches. 173cm
Reach: 72 inches. 183cm
Weight Class:Super bantamweight, Featherweight, Super featherweight, Lightweight, Light welterweight, and Welterweight
Professional Record: Total Fights: 61, Wins: 52, Wins by KO: 36, Losses: 9, Draws 0
Notable Fights:Erik Morales vs Daniel Zaragoza, Morales vs Marco Antonio Barrera I,II,III, Morales vs Jesus Chavez, Morales vs Manny Pacquaio I,II,III

Erik Morales: Overview 

Erik Morales or Érik Isaac Morales Elvira to give him his full name is a former Mexican professional boxer who competed from 1993 to 2012. He is/was the first Mexican born boxer in history to win world titles at four different weight classes. Erik Morales held: 

  • The WBC Super bantamweight title from 1997 to 2000. 
  • The WBC Featherweight title twice between 2001 and 2003. 
  • The unified WBC and IBF Super featherweight titles in 2004. 
  • And the WBC Light welterweight title from 2011 to 2012.

During this time (and the course of his career) Eric Morales defeated fifteen world champions and was famed for for his epic trilogies against fellow Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera and Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao

Erik Morales: Early Life and Amateur Career

Legend has it that Erik Morales was actually born in a boxing gym! Born in the Zona Norte section of Tijuana (an area infamous for drug trafficking and prostitution) Erik Morales against his father wishes, initially began boxing at the age of five after ironically his mother gave her blessing for it. A professional fighter himself Jose Morales knew how difficult it was to succeed in the sport so tutored his young son who quickly excelled in the sport. 

Considering Erik Morales amassed a rather impressive amateur career record in Mexico, which saw him fight 114 times (108–6) and win 11 major titles it was not surprising that Eric Morales would turn pro. What however was slightly surprising was the age at which he did so.

Erik Morales: The Professional

Erik Morales made his professional debut at the age of just 16, by knocking out Jose Orejel in just two rounds. Between 1993 and 1997, Morales quickly climbed the ranks of the Super bantamweight division, winning 26 fights, 20 of which by knockout. The wins including victories over former champions Kenny Mitchell and Hector Acero Sánchez which would ultimately lead to a challenge for his first world title. During this period Erik Morales also signed with promoter Bob Arum and under Arum and ‘Top Rank’, Morales’ career began to excel.

Erik Morales: First world title

In 1996 Eric Morales admitted he was having great difficulty making the 122 pound Super bantamweight weight limit and was even considering moving up in weight. However, his decision to stay at Super bantamweight was rewarded on the 6th September, 1997 when at the age of 21 ‘El Terrible’ won his first world title by stopping Daniel Zaragoza (a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame) via knockout in eleven rounds for the WBC title.

Erik Morales: Super bantamweight (1993-2000)

Notable fights and defences.

As champion at this weight Erik Morales would take on some dangerous opponents; Junior Jones (44-3) was one such fighter for he had an impressive record and shared a training camp with Evander Holyfield. Morales nevertheless impressed and surprised everyone by stopping Jones in just four rounds.

Moreover, on the 22nd October, 1999 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Erik Morales would make his 8th successful defence of his WBC Super bantamweight title by beating Wayne McCullough of the United Kingdom by a unanimous decision over 12 rounds.

* Nb Eric Morales would state that McCullough had given him ‘one of the three toughest fights of his career’.

It was not until the following year however (2000) that Erik Morales would start to engage in one of the most bitter and brutal trilogies in boxing history. A landmark that would begin to truly define his legacy.

Erik Morales vs Marco Antonio Barrera (I)

On the 19th February, 2000, Eric Morales fought fellow Mexican Legend Marco Antonio Barrera with whom he’d had ‘bad blood’ for years. The fight proved an absolute classic, with both fighters standing ‘toe to toe’ and brawling ‘round for round’ from start to finish. Take a look at some of the highlights of this truly barbaric battle.

Erik Morales would win by controversial split decision though many fans thought Barrera had won it due to a knockdown that he scored in the twelfth and final round. 

Afterwards, Morales said, “He was a brave fighter, and we both gave it all we had. We were both hurt during the fight. He was the biggest puncher I ever faced in the ring.” The Ring named it the Fight of the Year.

This proved to be Erik Morales’ last fight at 122 pounds. After nine successful title defences and an unblemished record of 36 wins and zero loses, Erik Morales chose to vacate his WBC Super bantamweight title in order to move up to the 126lb Featherweight division.

Erik Morales: Featherweight

After moving up in weight divisions Erik Morales in only his second fight at that weight fought Kevin Kelly on the 2nd of September, 2000 in El Paso, Texas, winning the WBC interim Featherweight championship by TKO in round seven. Morales firstly knocking Kelley down in rounds, five and seven before a barrage of six uppercuts ended with Kelly trapped on the ropes ended the bout.

Notable fights and defences.

Erik Morales kept busy at featherweight and fought again in 2000, knocking out Rodney Jones in the first round. In February 2001, Morales fought Guty Espadas, Jr., the WBC Featherweight title holder who held a thirteen fight winning streak. Erik Morales was in no mood to be stopped though and won a close twelve-round decision to claim his third world title in his second weight division.

In July 2001, Morales defeated future champion ‘In Jin Chi’ of South Korea and retained his title by unanimous decision over 12 rounds to take his record to 41 win and 0 losses

Erik Morales, first Professional loss

Erik Morales vs Marco Antonio Barrera (II)

Erik Morales would taste defeat for the first time when he lost a controversial majority decision and his WBC title against lineal champion, Marco Antonio Barrera on the 22nd of June, 2002, in a re-match of their classic fight of February 2000. 

Morales constantly pressed and dominated much of the first half of the fight clearly winning at least 4 of the first 6 rounds. However, he was cut on the bridge of the nose in the 2nd round, and suffered another cut and swelling over his right eye in the eigth. In an ironic twist of events (to that of the first fight) Erik Morales punched Barrera to the canvas during the middle rounds though it was contentiously ruled a slip. Thereby, although Morales seemed to narrowly win rounds 10 and 11, which when including his dominance in first half of the fight seemed enough to secure victory – he ultimately lost a split decision many thought he had won. It was neither a popular or well respected decision though. Indeed check out an excellent concise appraisal of the fight here where some notable names of the fight industry also voiced their opinions on the result.

Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera – loss and response.

Erik Morales would immediately bounce back after his first loss with a streak of seven impressive wins:

  • In November 2002 Erik Morales won a dominating 12 round decision over former world champion Paulie Ayala to regain the WBC featherweight title.
  • In March 2003 Eric Morales defended his title and defeated Eddie Croft in devastating fashion, brutally disposing of him with a knockdown in round 2 before two further knockdowns in round 3 saw the fight waived off as a TKO. Croft in a terrible state such was the onslaught he had suffered.

Erik Morales also similarly disposed of Fernando Velardez later that year. Knocking Velardez down in rounds 1, 4 and 5, before the fight was again stopped by TKO without a count. In October 2003, Morales continued his destructive path onwards, defeating Guty Espadas Jr. in a rematch of their previously close fight of 2001. This time Morales took only three rounds to knockout Espadas. Round 3 of which can be viewed here

That accomplished Erik Morales decided to vacate his WBC Featherweight title and move up in weight to 130lbs where he won the Super featherweight title from Jesus ‘El Matador’ Chavez on the 28th of February, 2004 by unanimous decision. Morales twice knocking Chavez down, which was something Floyd Mayweather Jr. had been unable to do. This victory ensured Erik Morales became only the second Mexican boxer in history to win a title in three separate divisions; the first fighter to do so, none other than the legend himself, Julio César Chávez.

Morales unified his WBC Super featherweight title by taking the IBF version from Carlos Hernandez on the 31st July, 2004 by way of a twelve round unanimous decision. It was a result which would lead to a record of 47-1 and a ‘rubber’ match with Marco Antonio Barrera.

Erik Morales vs Marco Antonio Barrera (III)

Many people actually questioned this fight at the time as Erik Morales was in blistering form whilst Barrera was coming off a terrible loss to Manny Pacquaio. Nevertheless, whilst most thought Barrera was a spent force the fight turned out to be anything but and on the 27th of November 2004, Marco Antonio Barrera proved every wrong when he defeated Erik Morales for a second time. The fight was nevertheless close with the judges’ scorecards only separating these Mexican legends by a single point: 114–114, 114–115, 113–115 in favour of Barrera.

It should be noted however that this is the only Erik Morales vs Marco Antonio Barrera fight in which the people and general boxing community did not question the decision. This third meeting once again named The Ring – ‘Fight of the Year’.

Erik Morales vs Manny Paquaio (I)

Erik Morales however “would never take a backseat in a fight to anyone. The more you hurt him, the harder he came back at you. He fought like a real-life Incredible Hulk, growing stronger as his opponents tried to best him.”

It was no surprise therefore when he recovered quickly, and started his second great trilogy with a win over three-division world champion, Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision. Erik Morales was a huge betting underdog going into the fight which took place in Las Vegas on the 19th March, 2005 but seemed to enjoy himself doing so. Comfortably ahead on the scorecards Morales even dared to brawl with the Filipino slugger. 

Indeed in a post fight interview, when HBO broadcaster Larry Merchant, asked Morales, “Why?” Morales replied by asking a question of his own, “Did you enjoy it? That’s why.” Later declaring “I decided to stop myself in front of him in the twelfth round because I wanted to give the public what they deserve. It was a great round. I’m very happy about it.”

Some fantastic highlights of a fantastic fight can be seen here where  amongst other you see Erik Morales switch to southpaw and clearly disobey from commentary, his fathers’ advice for the 12th round of ‘not to do anything stupid!’

Erik Morales: – The career begins to fade

Thereafter Erik Morales would move up in weight to 135 pounds in order to try and fulfil his desire to become the first Mexican to win titles in four different weight classes. However, he lost his next four fights doing so:

Firstly to Zahir Raheem by a wide unanimous decision, before subsequently losing consecutive fights to a ‘prime’ Manny Pacquaio. The first in January 2006 when Eric Morales was stopped in the 10th round and then 10 months later when and where Morales was not so much out boxed as simply out powered. Take a look

Erik Morales: – A twilight success

Thereafter Erik Morales’ career suffered a mix bag of results with him winning four but losing 3 of his last 7 fights. The crowning glory for Erik Morales though was that he did actually achieve his goal of winning titles in four different weight classes with a victory over fellow countryman Pablo Cesar Cano on the 17th September, 2011 at the MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas. Cano retired by his corner in round 10 with blood streaming from his left eye and both of Cano’s eyes completely swollen shut.

*It should be noted however that the title won by Erik Morales was regarded by many including boxing experts and commentators alike as somewhat of a ‘paper championship’.

That said no-one can take away from Erik Morales that he was the inaugural Mexico-born boxer to win world titles in four different weight classes.

Erik Morales: Retirement, personal life & present day

In June 2014, Erik Morales officially announced his retirement from boxing but continued to give back to his community by managing a $3.5 million budget running the parks and recreation department in Tijuana which he had begun long before his final retirement. Morales donating his salary back to the department to further help fund it. 

In Eric Morales’ own words his ‘raison d’etre’ was “This is just a way for me to be able to thank the people who have been so good to me all my life.”

Continuing in the same vain Erik Morales in July 2018 won a seat at the Chamber of Deputies (Mexican Congress) for Baja California and currently serves in the legislative body’s committee on sports.

Erik Morales: Accolades.

As well as the notable achievements already mentioned Eric Morales

  • Was ranked by ESPN at number 49 on their list of the 50 greatest boxers of all time
  • Eric Morales was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2018.

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