McCullough: Keys for Morales-Pacquiao rematch

What are the keys to victory in the junior lightweight rematch of Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao? Wayne McCullough, who once fought Morales, provides answers.

Originally Published: January 19, 2006
By Wayne Pocket Rocket McCullough | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Super bantamweight Wayne Pocket Rocket McCullough (27-6-0) plots strategy for the Erik Morales-Manny Pacquiao rematch. McCullough offers unique perspective: In October 1999, McCullough lost a unanimous decision WBC title fight to Morales.

The last time Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao fought, there was controversy before they even stepped into the ring.

THE BATTLE
HBO PPV Saturday 9 p.m. ET
Thomas & Mack Center

Las Vegas

• Junior lightweights: Erik Morales (48-3, 34 KOs) vs. Manny Pacquiao (40-3-2, 31 KOs), rematch, 12 rounds
• HBO PPV Tale O' The Tape
• Junior bantamweights: Martin Castillo (29-1, 16 KOs) vs. Alexander Munoz (28-1, 26 KOs), rematch, 12 rounds, for Castillo's title
• Middleweights: Jose Luis Zertuche (17-2-2, 13 KOs) vs. Marcos Primera (19-12-2, 12 KOs), 10 rounds
• Featherweights: Juan Manuel Lopez (8-0, 8 KOs) vs. Jose Luis Caro (10-3-1, 9 KOs), 6 rounds

The gloves they were to fight in were an issue. Pacquiao wanted to wear Cleto Reyes gloves -- known as punchers' gloves -- but Morales had picked Winning gloves. Team Pacquiao was not happy, but in the end, they compromised and Winning gloves were worn.

In their rematch Saturday night in Las Vegas (HBO PPV, 9 ET), it will not matter what brand of gloves they wear. With Pacquiao (40-3-2, 31 KOs) happy with his glove of choice, he can focus on exacting revenge.

Wayne McCullough/Erik Morales
John Gichigi /AllsportUntil writer McCullough (left) fights Morales (right) again, he has pointers for both Morales and Manny Pacquiao in their rematch.

Both fighters have three losses on their records and more than 30 KO victories each, so it will be an interesting fight if both boxers are wearing the punchers' gloves.

In the early part of their first bout, an accidental clash of heads opened a bad cut over Pacquiao's right eye. The blood was getting into his eye, and he showed desperation by trying to come forward, looking for a one-punch knock out from the straight left hands he was throwing. However, Morales showed poise and boxed beautifully, catching the southpaw as he came forward one-hand happy. Morales pulled out the victory, capturing seven rounds to five on all three cards for scores of 115-113.

McCullough recalls facing Morales
I remember when I fought Morales in October 1999. He said he would do to me what Naseem Hamed couldn't do to me when I fought Hamed the year before: Knock me out. From the first round to the last round, Morales tried.

Believe me, he hit hard enough to do damage! His punches felt just as powerful in round one as they did in round 12. I understand how he had knocked out or stopped his previous nine opponents before he met me.

I pushed Morales round after round. In the later rounds, I could see he was trying to keep up with my pressure. He showed the true heart of a champion that night and displayed tremendous technical skills while on the outside.

But once I made him trade with me, I was able to hit him with clean shots. During our fight, I tried not to let him take control but that proved tough.

Morales won by unanimous decision. If we ever met in the ring again, I would stay on him every minute of every round. I don't think he could take my pressure throughout an entire fight. I would fight close and make him trade.

However, Morales (48-3, 34 KOs) is 1-2 in his last three fights. In September, he lost unexpectedly to Zahir Raheem. He looked out of shape and didn't get many punches off. Raheem is a great mover, a counter punching boxer who possesses a style most boxers don't want to meet in the ring. Raheem is hard to hit and made Morales look ordinary. Although Morales probably wasn't at his best that night, you can't take anything away from Raheem's performance.

You would hope Pacquiao has learned from his mistakes in the first fight. If he studied Raheem's style, he might become the mover this time. But once he gets hit by Morales, who no doubt will be in shape for this bout, the fight might end up just like their first meeting.

Both Morales and Pacquiao have been world champions in different weight classes. This fight is a WBC super featherweight title elimination, so each will be hoping to get one more title shot. Morales has been training in the mountains of Mexico and is pleased with his new trainer, Jose Luis "Maestro" Lopez Jr. Pacquiao has been staying busy at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., under the guidance of Freddie Roach. Each will be well prepared.

Keys To Victory For Morales

1. Box on the outside
Morales should stay on the outside and counterpunch Pacquiao as Pacquiao comes forward. If Morales has to go forward, then he needs to use his left jab to set up furious right hands.

Morales
Morales

2. Use his big punch
Morales has a big punch, but we saw signs of a possible burnout during his loss to Raheem. Let's hope this is not a factor in this fight and he is back in tip-top shape. Using his powerful right hand can make a difference in this fight and could tilt the outcome in his favor.

3. Avoid fighting in a phone booth
Morales cannot stand and trade toe-to-toe with Pacquiao because he will get hit too much. Pacquiao is a better fighter on the inside so Morales should keep his distance and pick his shots.

Keys To Victory For Pacquiao

1. Get in and out
Pacquiao needs to get in with punches from different angles and then back away to the left or right -- out of Morales' range.

Pacquiao
Pacquiao

2. Use movement
Pacquiao should give Morales some kind of movement in the fight. After watching Morales' loss to Raheem, Pacquiao will realize he needs to use angles instead of coming straight forward being left-hand happy.

3. Use speed
Using his southpaw right jab to set up big straight lefts could be the key for Pacquiao. But again, one punch is not going to win him this fight, so he needs to jab his way in first.

Prediction

Morales will want to get back on the winning track and Pacquiao will want to show that the gloves favored Morales in their first bout. Gloves or not, both guys are punchers.

This fight probably will end the same way as the last one, with Morales coming away as the winner on points. But whomever comes into this rematch with the best game plan could dictate the outcome.

This is the fight the fans want to see. Let's hope it will be exciting and neither fighter will make any excuses when the fight ends.

Super bantamweight Wayne McCullough recently published his autobiography, "Don't Quit." McCullough's Web site is www.pocketrocketbox.com

ALSO SEE