McCullough: Keys for Morales-Pacquiao rematch

1/19/2006 - Boxing

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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