For today's Closet Classic we are bending the definition a little bit on what really counts as a "Closet Classic" and instead looking at a bout which is more of an "instant classic", but it's such a good bout that we can't help but include it in this series. For one it's an amazing bout, with great back and forth action and for two it feature two absolute legends of the sport, albeit with one coming to the end of his career and one still on their way to all time great status.
This is a bout we expect many of you have seen, but one that is always worth a re-watch, and is genuinely a brilliant battle and the second chapter if an iconic rivalry.
Manny Pacquiao (40-3-2, 31) vs Erik Morales (48-3, 34) II
In one corner was 27 year old Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao, who was well on his way to establishing himself a special, once in a life time fighter. He had already scored wins against a who's who of who, with victories over the likes of Chatchai Sasakul, Lehlo Ledwaba and Marco Antonio Barrera. He had however suffered a loss in 2005 to Erik Morales, with the Mexican turning southpaw in round 12 to go to war with Pacquiao and make a statement of his machismo.
That was Pacquiao's first loss in the US and his first loss since he was a Flyweight, and suffered a TKO loss in 1999 to Medgoen Singsurat in Thailand, and was seen as an upset for the rampaging Filipino.
As for Morales the win over Pacquiao further showed that he was a modern day great and a true warrior, with his 12th round display becoming an iconic stand by a man who was told not to do anything stupid before going to war. Following that win however Morales had suffered a massive upset loss to Zahir Raheem, in what was the 2004 Ring Magazine upset of the Year. That loss had seen some suggest that Morales was on the slide, whilst others suggested it was a freak result, or a case of a fighter not being focused.
What both men had in common is that they were entertainers in the ring. Pacquiao was a whirling dervish as a fighter. He was crude at times, wild at others, but hugely entertaining with scary power in his left hand and a high work rate. Morales on the other hand was a polished boxer, with a good jab, and good technical skills, but seemed to prefer to ignore that and prove he had balls the size of melons, and was almost always happy to have a war, rather than using his skills.
Both men also had points to prove. Pacquiao had to prove the loss to Morales was a fluke, a one off, and not the end of his rise. He also had the chance to prove that the first bout was decided by gloves, as this time he was wearing his prefered Cleto Reyes gloves. Morales had to prove he wasn't done after the loss to Raheem. Both men came into the ring with hunger to make a statement and a hunger to prove they were still one of the best.
We also had two rabid fan bases, giving us an amazing atmosphere. It had Mexican fans there to support Morales, Filipino fans there to support Pacquiao and boxing fans there to watch chapter 2 of the Pacquiao Vs Morales story.
This started tactically, it was round 1 of fight #2 and not round 13 of Pacquiao Vs Morales, and as a result it was the clean, effective jabs of Morales that were key in the first minute or two. Within the final minute of the opening round however the two men picked up the pace and both managed to land some solid shots with their power hand. It was glimpse of what was to come later in the bout and saw that both men had quickly begin to settle down and get to work. Although the commentators praised a lot of Pacquiao's work it was certainly not a clear round, with Morales have plenty of success himself.
In round 2 we saw the action continue to pick up, with Pacquiao pressing more and Morales playing the role of smart counter puncher. The handspeed and aggression of Pacquiao saw him catching Morales clean repeatedly, but his crude, march forward also saw him eating some huge counters from Morales. Pacquiao almost dropped Morales in the final minute of the round, though it drew the machismo from Morales who decided to go to war in an attempt to get Pacquiao's respect. A tactic that didn't really work. Despite the success of Morales's counter he couldn't avoid Pacquiao's straight left hand, which was catching him time and time again.
Morales looked to create some distance in round 3, using his jab and footwork early on, though it wasn't long before he tried to get Pacquiao's attention again with a flurry of shots. It was a brilliant attempt to rebound after the previous round, but Pacquiao continued to have success with the straight left hand, and no matter how much success Morales had he was still eating the bigger shots and the more painful combinations.
As we entered round 4 Pacquiao's right eye was starting to swell, a result of Morales's long rangy jab, and Morales was starting to time Pacquiao more often with the Mexican starting to use more polished technical skills to take advantages of Pacquiao's flaws. Pacquiao on the other hand was becoming more and more reliant on the left hand, rather than landing his jab. The left hand had had success in rounds 2 and 3, but in round 4 Morales was starting to take it away and with Pacquiao not using his jab it allowed Morales to take some control of the contest and build some momentum.
It was a smart technical change from Morales who came out in round 5 and landed some eye catching leather early before Pacquiao came back as the round went on. Strangely, given the first 4 rounds, this one seemed a lot quieter than the earlier rounds, it was however the calm before the storm and in round 6 Pacquiao's pace increased, as he began to turn the screw and did some damage to Morales part way through the round. Morales tried to respond but was taking more and more punishment, with his face showing the damage from Pacquiao's shots. It was a huge round from Pacquiao and he seemed to send Morales stumbling right on the bell.
Entering round 7 we had already seen the momentum of the bout shift one way, then back and again and again. We had seen both men show some facial damage, both have success and both need to make adjustments. Amazingly we continued to see the momentum shift, with Morales have a great round 7, unleashing his arsenal on Pacquiao as he looked to re-establish himself. It was an amazing start to the round from Morales, but by the end of the round Pacquiao looked to have taken the best from Morales and was punishing the Mexican, who looked like a man fighting on heart and desire alone.
We'll leave the bout here for you to enjoy, and seriously it is one you will enjoy! A fantastic clash of legendary fighters both giving everything they had.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features