Erik Morales says it was because of Fernando Velardez’s slighting of well-wishers.
Velardez says it was because of a slight cough.
Or a sneeze. Or a runny nose.
More than likely, it’s because of Morales’ slight concern that he is not sufficiently motivated for his World Boxing Council featherweight title defense against Velardez in the semi-main event Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center before Oscar De La Hoya’s match against Yory Boy Campas.
Looking at Velardez in comparison to such previous opponents as Marco Antonio Barrera, Paul Ayala, Kevin Kelley, Guty Espadas and even Injin Chi, Morales might figure he needs something extra to get the adrenaline pumping
Whatever the reason, Morales, of Mexico, has made it clear that this fight is personal, that he not only wants to beat Velardez, but to punish him for his behavior after beating Morales’ brother, Diego, last year.
“I want him to suffer,” Morales said through a translator.
Such a remark might be expected of Mike Tyson or Fernando Vargas, fighters to whom the man in the other corner is not just an opponent, but an enemy.
The soft-spoken, mild-mannered Morales is normally a gentle soul who just happens to make his living in a brutal sport. With the exception of Barrera, who pushes Morales’ buttons, opponents tend to be just that to Morales, and no more.
The fight that has Morales stirred up occurred last April in Tijuana. Diego Morales knocked Velardez down twice in the first round and three times overall, was knocked down himself in the third, and there were head butts that left blood and bruises on the fighters.
Going into the ninth round, Morales had a sizable lead on all three judges’ scorecards. But with 10 seconds left in the round, there was confusion in Morales’ corner. Thinking the round was over, one of his handlers stepped onto the ring apron.
That resulted in an automatic disqualification of Morales, which sparked a near riot.
“Everybody was against us, the referees, the judges, fans,” said Velardez after the fight.
“They cheated so much, they cheated themselves out of victory.”
Erik Morales says he understands why his brother was disqualified. He says he can even understand why Velardez made those remarks afterward. What is bothering him, he says, is that Velardez refused to shake hands with those who tried to congratulate him.
Told of Morales’ point of contention this week, Velardez, who was born and raised in San Bernardino and doesn’t speak Spanish, shrugged his shoulders.
“I have no idea what he is talking about,” Velardez said. “The people who came up to me were sneezing and coughing. I thought they might have had the flu and I didn’t want to touch them. But I never showed any disrespect.”
Velardez would get tremendous respect if he could upset Morales. At 24-4-1 with six knockouts, Velardez, who goes by the nickname “Bobby Boy,” is ranked only 16th by the WBC, fifth by the International Boxing Federation among junior-featherweights.
For Morales (42-1, 31), ranked among the elite featherweights, this figures to be a respite before a possible third fight with Barrera in the fall. Morales and Barrera have split, each having won a controversial decision.
Morales’ last four opponents have been Espadas, Chi, Barrera and Ayala. From Velardez, Morales figures to get an easier fight.
And maybe even a handshake when it’s over.
As long as his nose isn’t running.
A week ago, James Toney was a washed-up fighter. And Dan Goossen was a has-been promoter.
One stirring victory over Vassiliy Jirov later, Toney and Goossen are back in demand.
Toney’s victory by decision last Saturday not only gave him the IBF cruiserweight title, but entry into the heavyweight picture.
For Goossen, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, founded Ten Goose Boxing, worked for promoter Bob Arum and then co-founded the America Presents boxing organization, the win boosted his new company, Goossen Tutor Promotions, into prominence.
Where does Toney go from here?
Goossen wants to match Tony against IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd with the heavyweight and cruiserweight titles on the line. That fight, probably in the fall, would be in Detroit since both fighters are from Michigan.
In the meantime, it appears Roy Jones will defend his World Boxing Assn. heavyweight crown against Evander Holyfield.
The winners, under this plan, would then meet in a heavyweight unification fight.
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Saturday’s Title Fights
Championship fights on Saturday’s boxing card at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (Television: pay per view):
* EDUARDO MARQUEZ (11-5, 2 KO), Nicaragua, vs. IVAN CALDERON (15-0), Puerto Rico, 12 rounds, for Marquez’s WBO strawweight title.
* JORGE ARCE (33-3, 1 KO), Mexico, vs. MELCHOR COB-CASTRO (67-8, 4 KO), Mexico, 12 rounds, for Arce’s WBC light-flyweight title.
* ERIK MORALES (42-1, 31 KO) , Mexico, vs. FERNANDO VELARDEZ (24-4, 6 KO), San Bernardino, 12 rounds, for Morales’ WBC featherweight title.
* OSCAR DE LA HOYA (35-2-0, 28 KO), East Los Angeles, vs. YORY BOY CAMPAS (80-5, 68 KO), Mexico, 12 rounds, for De La Hoya’s world super-welterweight title.