Morales hopes for successful comeback
After Erik Morales lost a close, grueling decision to then-lightweight titlist David Diaz in August 2007, he announced his retirement.
Morales -- who had clearly lost a step by that time -- said at the postfight press conference at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., that every time he got hit his head hurt, which is certainly a sign that it might be time to go.
Another sign was that the loss to Diaz was Morales' fourth consecutive defeat and fifth defeat in his past six fights, the one victory coming in 2005 in the first of his three fights with Manny Pacquiao -- who hasn't lost since.
Despite the losing streak, Morales' Hall of Fame legacy had been sealed years earlier. The Mexican great is a three-division champion -- junior featherweight, featherweight and junior lightweight -- with a long list of big wins and classic fights, such as his thrilling trilogy with Marco Antonio Barrera and the first two slugfests with Pacquiao.
But, like so many other great fighters restless in retirement, Morales is making a comeback after 2½ years out of the ring and will lace 'em up again in Monterrey, Mexico, on Saturday night (Integrated Sports PPV, 9 ET, $29.95).
Morales (48-6, 34 KOs), who will fight all the way up in the welterweight division, will face former lightweight titlist Jose Alfaro (23-5, 20 KOs) of Nicaragua in the main event of a card called "The Champion Returns."
As unlikely as it may seem, the 33-year-old Morales -- who turned pro at age 16 -- still has designs on becoming the first Mexican-born fighter to win titles in four divisions.
Morales couldn't accomplish that goal when he challenged Diaz for a lightweight crown, but he hopes a win against Alfaro can put him on the road to a welterweight belt.
"I'm happy to be here and completely ready to face Alfaro," Morales said. "Fans will see a different Erik Morales than in my last few fights, because now I'm hungry to win this fight and go on towards winning a world title in my fourth division. I want to prove to everyone watching that all of the hard work in training camp will result in a great performance in my return to the ring."
Pacquiao, of course, holds a welterweight title, and Morales said he'd like another crack at him, despite being stopped in the 10th round of their rematch, which was competitive, and then blown out in three rounds in their rubber match.
Another shot at Pacquiao is highly unlikely, but Morales holds on to the dream.
"The two opponents who have defined my career are Junior Jones and Manny Pacquiao," Morales said. "Defeating Jones was important to me because he had stopped something like 32 Mexicans in previous fights. Defeating Pacquiao is my greatest accomplishment in the ring. I remember seeing him cry after our fight. I would love another chance at Pacquiao, and I also look forward to fighting [countryman] Juan Manuel Marquez in the future.
"At 147, I'm faster than ever and freer with my body, so I can get the most out of it. First, though, is my fight against Jose Alfaro. [He] is a great young fighter and a former world champion. A wicked puncher who will bring his best, he has a big heart in the ring, and always gives fans everything he has."
Alfaro, 26, briefly held a 135-pound belt in late 2007 and early 2008. He is coming off a 10th-round TKO loss to Mexico's Antonio DeMarco, whom he met for an interim belt on Showtime in October.
"I do not mind that Morales is the favorite in this fight," Alfaro said. "I understand, but I had the best training camp of my life, in my country, and I'm going to win. My youth and strength will dominate this match. I know that I'm going to be taking the victory to Nicaragua."
Also on the pay-per-view: Former light heavyweight titlist Hugo Hernan Garay (32-4, 17 KOs) of Argentina meets Houston's Chris Henry (24-2, 19 KOs) in a title eliminator, and heavyweight David Rodriguez (32-0, 30 KOs) faces journeyman Daniel Bispo (22-12, 16 KOs). A fight between Denver Cuello (19-2-5, 10) of the Philippines and Mexico's Juan Hernandez (15-1, 12 KOs) for a vacant interim strawweight belt fell out Tuesday after Hernandez suffered a training injury.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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