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No Doubt for Morales This Time

October 05, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

Erik Morales has a busy but easy to read road map for his fighting future.

Countryman Guty Espadas, it turns out, was nothing more than a speed bump Saturday night in Morales' plan to become the second native-born Mexican, along with Julio Cesar Chavez, to win world titles in three separate weight classes.

Morales, the World Boxing Council featherweight champion who vacated his title by moving from 126 pounds to 130, used a vicious overhand right to knock out Espadas at 2:58 of the third round in the WBC super-featherweight eliminator. He improved his record to 45-1 with 34 KOs, delighting a boisterous crowd of 12,292 at Staples Center in the main event of the seven-bout card.

Espadas (37-6) was caught on the left ear by the punch and was counted out by referee James Jen Kim as he sat on the ropes.

Until the final blow, Morales, a 13-1 favorite, seemed sluggish and slow at the higher weight, his punches less than crisp against the weary-looking Espadas, who had hoped to avenge a controversial decision from the fighters' first meeting.

Morales, a former champion at 122 pounds, took Espadas' WBC 126-pound title on Feb. 17, 2001, in Las Vegas by unanimous decision, a fight that many ringside observers thought Espadas had won.

"I knew the first time around that I was better than that, than I showed in that fight," Morales added. "I think I did that. I did certain things I wanted to do.

"130 is the perfect weight for me."

Morales' promoter, Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum, said earlier this week that he'd like to have Morales meet Carlos Hernandez for his International Boxing Federation belt and then, if successful, challenge Jesus Chavez for the WBC version of the title.

A third fight against Marco Antonio Barrera would ensue.

All within the next 11 months.

After the fight, though, Morales spoke of a 10-round fight in Japan in December, to be followed by Chavez in February.

Morales hopes he answered questions about supposedly losing power with the added weight.

"I think I proved myself by standing in there with [Espadas] and trading punches. That's what he wanted to do."

In the last fight of the night, Hernandez (40-3-1) of Bellflower successfully defended his IBF super-featherweight championship against Steve Forbes (23-2) of Portland, Ore. The bout was stopped after the 10th round due to accidental head butts and it went to the scorecards, which had Hernandez leading 97-93, 98-92, 97-94.

On the undercard, IBF bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez of Mexico scored a workmanlike 12-round unanimous decision over Mauricio Pastrana of Colombia, and Daniel Reyes of Colombia took the IBF strawweight title away from Mexican champion Edgar Cardenas with a technical knockout in the sixth.

Marquez (30-3, 27 knockouts) controlled his fight with a left jab and body shots. He jolted Pastrana with a stiff right at the end of the fifth, and also had him in trouble in the seventh. But he never floored the challenger.

Pastrana (30-4-1) who previously held the IBF and World Boxing Assn. belts, had his moments but could never mount a serious charge.


Staff writer Mike Terry contributed to this report.

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