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The Son of La Zona Norte...

Jan 6, 2004  By Jason Unpingco
Walking through the area known as La Zona Norte in Tijuana can be an eye opening experience of the harsh border life that lies on the other side of San Diego, California. The local bands who make it to the Latin music charts sing “narco corridos”-songs with a polka musical style that sing of the life of the drug trafficker, similar to the hard core gangster rap. The police are notorious for robbing everyone from tourists to locals. These same police are also known for getting executed by local drug cartel members. You can look down poverty stricken alleyways that would make even Middleweight Champion Bernard Hopkins cringe for a second. The whole scene is reminiscent of what the Wild West was during the 1800’s. Welcome to Erik “El Terrible” Morales’ neighborhood.

Despite the tough environment he was born and raised in, Morales has become one of the most famous boxers from Mexico in recent years. He’s a fighter who always comes forward to knock his opponents out. His right hand during his campaigns in the 122lb division was a feared weapon. He also has a very solid jab. If you look a little closer, when Morales wanted to, he could parry and he displays solid technical boxing skills. His style is a long-range puncher combined with the old Mexican liver hooking slugger. The technical style may be closer to new generation of Mexican fighters rather than the old Julio Cesar Chavez style.

However, Morales has his share of technical flaws. Many observers were quick to mention his lack of defense (evident in his first bout with Marco Antonio Barrera). And as “El Terrible” moved up in weight, many people were talking about his diminished power. He was given a gift decision against Barrera in their first fight and many thought he lost against Guty Espadas in 2001. Although the rematch in 2003 ended with a 3rd round knockout of Espadas, it is yet to be seen whether, at 27, his fearless come at you style might have already taken a toll on his body like his rival Marco Antonio Barrera (Barrera looked ring worn as he was brutalized in his fight against Manny Pacquiao in November 2003).

Now as the time is getting close for Morales to challenge for Jesus Chavez’s World Boxing Council (WBC) Super Featherweight Title, many will be interested in how the Son of the La Zona Norte will look in a weight class eight pounds above his original championship years’ division.

Never mind the fact that Chavez looked extremely limited against his best opponent to date Floyd Mayweather, JR., in 2001. Morales doesn’t have Pretty Boy Floyd’s gift of speed and defense and Chavez has been fighting at 130lbs for almost seven years. For all the pros and cons facing Morales in this fight, there is one thing nobody can take away-his pride of being successful despite growing up in the wild west border city of Tijuana.

How many people can do what he did and possibly continue to do from that environment? A few names like Ricardo Mayorga or Bernard Hopkins come to mind. There are a slew of others, including ones from the same city as Morales like World Boxing Organization (WBO) Welterweight Champion Antonio Margarito.

This is what makes boxing so great. Fighters like Morales are literally fighting to make it out of tough environments and flourish. And once in the ring, these fighters’ tough background is evident in their heart and determination.

Unless he is badly hurt, you won’t see Morales back peddling against Chavez. Despite what happens to Morales, he has earned respect for being one of the best boxers in the smaller weight divisions and making what little opportunities his neighborhood in La Zona Norte had to offer. There are match ups stewing in the 130lb division with fighters like Acelino Frietas, Joel Casamayor, Carlos Hernandez and Diego Corrales. Perhaps El Terrible will be bringing the tough Tijuana flavor to spice up the flavor in each bout if they were to happen.

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