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No KO, but Morales Wins Title

He batters Ayala to get unanimous decision and regain WBC featherweight championship.

November 17, 2002|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — It is tough enough to go eyeball to eyeball with Erik Morales and see that fearsome right hand coming your way, a guided missile of flesh and bone.

So imagine how terrifying it was for Paulie Ayala on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. He was trying to battle Morales for the World Boxing Council featherweight title with one eyeball rendered useless.

It might not have made any difference if Ayala had 20/20 vision, but with his left eye beginning to swell in the third round, Ayala became little more than a punching bag in the closing rounds as Morales won a unanimous decision in front of a crowd of 7,028.

Judges Burt Clements and John Keane both scored it 117-111, judge Anek Hongtongkam 116-112. The Times scored it 116-112 for Morales.

In a fight in which 1,813 punches were thrown, Morales landed 422 to only 185 for Ayala. The jabs were incredibly one-sided, Morales connecting on 110 to 17 for Ayala.

"This fight was called Never Surrender," said Ayala, who dropped to 34-2 with 12 knockouts, "and I was never going to quit. The people got their money's worth.

"This was my toughest fight. He was catching me on the end of his punches."

Morales was coming off a loss to Marco Antonio Barrera in June, his only defeat on a record which now stands at 42-1 with 31 knockouts.

With the victory, however, he wins back the title he lost to Barrera. Rather than pay the WBC's sanctioning fee, Barrera had refused to accept it.

Saturday's fight was billed as Morales' power against Ayala's speed and mobility, and it ran true to form. When Morales stayed outside and used his reach advantage (72 inches to 66), he was able to pound Ayala at will.

When Ayala was able to weather Morales' punishing right and stinging jabs and make his way inside, he was able to score points.

But once Morales was convinced Ayala, whose biggest weakness has always been the lack of a knockout punch, couldn't hurt him, he waded in, looking for the blow that would end the fight early.

It never came, although referee Kenny Bayless appeared to be close to stopping the match in the closing minute of the fight when Ayala, his left eye swollen shut, slumped against the ropes and took some of Morales' best shots.

After the final bell, Ayala was taken to Valley Hospital to have the eye examined.

Morales, who promised a knockout, gave reporters a list of reasons why he failed.

"I had trouble making weight," he said. "I hurt my left hand early in the fight and I hurt my right hand late in the fight when I hit [Ayala] on the top of the head."

But finally he conceded the real reason Ayala was still upright at the end.

"He is a strong fighter," Morales said, "with a strong chin."

*

In the semi-main event, Guty Espadas won a split decision over Bones Adams to capture another of boxing's dubious titles, the WBC Continental Americas featherweight championship.

Judges Herbert Minn (115-114) and Jerry Roth (115-113) scored the fight for Espadas. Judge Duane Ford gave it to Adams, 115-113.

*

A Sabbath observant, orthodox Jew, super-lightweight Dmitriy Salita (9-0, 7 knockouts) would not enter the ring until after dark for a four-round preliminary fight.

But it took only 1 minute 25 seconds for him to put his opponent's lights out. Salita knocked Ron Gladden (11-7-1, 6) down twice in that span, the first time with a flurry of punches culminating with a left hook.

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