El Terrible’s Adios
The old and tired adage says
that every great fighter has one last great
fight in him. Last Saturday at Thomas &
Mack Center, Erik “El Terrible”
Morales proved this troublesome adage true.
It was just that El Terrible’s “last
great fight” was twenty months ago.
After his last great fight
in March of 2005 against Manny Pacquiao, which
came after El Terrible looked spent in his third
fight with Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales
got staggered by Zahir Raheem, worn down by
Manny Pacquiao, and – at 2:57 of Round
3, Saturday night – retired, unequivocally,
by Manny Pacquiao.
El Terrible knew it. He knew
it when he sat on the canvas while Referee Vic
Drakulich’s count reached ten. And he
knew it in his postfight interview with Larry
Merchant – though HBO’s interpreter
Ray Torres didn’t. Twice, in two consecutive
answers, Erik Morales used the word “adios.”
One didn’t need to be a native Spanish
speaker to know that “adios” did
not mean “we’ll see” or “it’s
getting to be that time,” as Torres interpreted
Here’s what Erik Morales
actually said: “They were telling me to
get up. But there are times when one has to
get up, and there are times when one has to
say goodbye . . . I will have to think about
it, but [tonight] was a beautiful night, and
it was a good night to say goodbye.”
Five months ago in Tucson,
“Cool” Vince Phillips was beaten
to a wheezing, limping, bleeding mess by Jesus
Soto-Karass, on a Friday night edition of Telefutura’s
“Solo Boxeo.” Doubled over on a
stool in a neutral corner, Vince Phillips, a
former welterweight champion and veteran of
sixty prizefights, asked to announce his retirement
on national television. Because of schedule
constraints and language differences, Phillips’s
announcement did not happen.
Ray Torres’s handling
of Saturday night’s postfight interview
with Erik Morales was only a bit better. While
it is true that performing live interpretation
in the craziness of a boxing ring is tough work,
and while Spanish-to-English interpretation
can be filled with nuance and metaphor, there’s
no explaining an interpretive perspective giving
such weight to the beginning of Morales’s
answers and then stumbling over the word “adios”
twice. Most unfortunately, this misinterpreting
of Morales’s words denied fans the dramatic
spectacle of Larry Merchant eloquently bidding
a definitive farewell to a great pugilist.
references to “una noche bonita (a beautiful
night),” though, were handled fairly in
translation, and were evident in El Terrible’s
prefight countenance. As he made his way to
the ring, under a flood of affection from his
countrymen, Erik Morales gratefully did something
unexpected. He smiled. Meanwhile, Many Pacquiao,
a prizefighter whose joy often bursts on his
face with prefight grins, was serious as a matador.
The opening bell rang, and
Erik Morales tried to impose himself on Manny
Pacquiao in the first minute. But a pair of
Pacquiao right hooks, thrown with unlikely effect
from his southpaw stance, changed those plans.
The first round was every bit as good as hoped,
and every bit as favorable to Pacquiao as expected.
How fine was Round 2? In
his ringside account of it, our Mike Swann wrote,
“[It] has to be the round of the year”!
Certain he would grow no stronger as the fight
progressed, Erik Morales threw himself at the
sport’s most-potent puncher and backed
Pacquiao to the ropes. Then “Pacman”
clubbed El Terrible to the canvas. Erik Morales
rose, impatiently nodded at the referee, then
ran at the onrushing Pacquiao.
What came next was a scene
of professional violence duplicated but once
or twice every decade. Both men went directly
forward, winging punches – through the
end of the second round and into the third.
Neither man showed any respect for his opponent’s
power. Some exchanges ended with both Pacquiao
and Morales knocked four feet apart by the concussion
of their blows.
It was El Terrible’s
“adios” to his crazed and devout
fans. Against an opponent who was younger, stronger,
and more accurate, Erik Morales used all the
force he could summon. And employed no defense.
Then Pacquiao dropped him a second time.
Resigned to the inevitability
of his ruin, Erik Morales rose from the blue
mat once more and began to trade savagely and
fearlessly. Manny Pacquiao’s next combination
sent Morales across the ring and into the lowest
rope. There El Terrible sat. He was conscious
of what was next. He glanced at his father and
shook his head, and Referee Drakulich counted
So ended one of the great
athletic careers of the last ten years. And
so continued Manny Pacquiao’s reign as
the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.
There, I wrote it again.
Three Saturdays ago, Floyd
Mayweather decisioned Carlos Baldomir and began
to promote his fight against a semi-retired
Oscar de la Hoya. Two Saturdays from now, Winky
Wright will probably decision an un-retired
Ike Quartey. Last Saturday, Manny Pacquiao retired
Erik Morales. Really, is there any comparison?
According to postfight reports,
Manny Pacquiao has now signed a four-year contract
with Bob Arum’s Top Rank. This required
Mr. Pacquiao to return a $500,000 signing bonus
to Golden Boy Promotions – a check they
don’t want back at all. Compare this scenario
to what passed when Floyd Mayweather sent a
$750,000 check to Bob Arum last spring.
Whatever aficionados may
opine of Floyd Mayweather’s skill or Winky
Wright’s defense, actual records and attendance
figures and crowd reactions and pay-per-view
purchases and Bob Arum agree: Manny Pacquiao
is a contemporary boxing phenomenon without
But let’s end
on a personal note. Erik Morales, as you said
adios to us Saturday night, we say adios to
you. Your courage brings honor to your country.
You have pleased us as intensely as any pugilist
could. You remind us that great persons live
in our time. Sir, it has been a privilege to