Erik Isaac Morales Elvira (born September 1, 1976) After nine successful title defenses, Morales chose to vacate his WBC Super Bantamweight title and his newly won WBO title in order to move up to the featherweight division. In his second fight at this weight, he fought 33 year old former world champion Kevin Kelley, in September 2000. Kelley was knocked down in the fifth and seventh rounds, he was finally trapped in that latter round by a flurry of five consecutive uppercuts from Morales. Supported only by the ropes, a sixth uppercut landed, and the fight was stopped. Morales became the Interim WBC Featherweight Champion.
Morales vs Espadas Jr.
Morales fought again in 2000, knocking out Rodney Jones in the first round. In February 2001, he fought Guty Espadas Jr., the WBC Featherweight title holder with a thirteen fight winning streak, and whose father, Guty Espadas Sr., was also a world champion boxer. Morales won a close twelve round decision to claim his third world title in his second weight division. Although Morales was highly rated in the featherweight division, Naseem Hamed was seen as the Lineal Champion of the division.
In July 2001, Morales defeated future champion In Jin Chi of South Korea and retained his title. Chi gave a strong effort, but Morales was the sharper, harder puncher and outworked him for much of the fight. Morales was cut and swollen over the left eye in the 6th round by an accidental clash of heads and Chi was penalized one point in the 10th round.
Morales then tasted defeat for the first time in his 42nd professional fight when he lost (this time) a controversial majority decision and his WBC title against Lineal Champion, Marco Antonio Barrera in June 2002, in a re-match of their February 2000 fight. Morales constantly pressed forward and dominated much of the first half of the fight (clearly winning at least 4 of the first 6 rounds). He was cut on the bridge of the nose in the 2nd round, and cut and swollen over his right eye in the 8th. However, he punched Barrera to the canvas during the middle rounds but this was called a slip. Barrera fought cautiously in the early rounds, but rallied as the fight progressed, although Morales seemed to narrowly win rounds 10 and 11, which when including his dominance in the first half of the fight, seemed to seal him the close victory on the score cards. HBO’s unofficial ringside scorer: Harold Lederman, scored the fight 115-113 (7 rounds to 5) for Morales.
Morales bounced back with a dominating twelve round decision victory over former world champion, Paulie Ayala in November 2002 to regain the vacant WBC Featherweight title. The early rounds were close, but Morales started to dominate in the middle rounds, consistently landing the harder punches and Ayala’s left eye began to swell. He slowed his pace in the late rounds and Ayala rallied, but Morales rocked him with a series of punches in the 12th round.
Morales defeated Eddie Croft in March 2003. He scored three knockdowns and stopped Croft in the 3rd round. All the fighters on the card donated their purses to “Vamos Mexico,” a children’s charity headed by Marta Sahagun, wife of Mexican president Vicente Fox.
Morales defeated Fernando Velardez later that year. He knocked down Velardez in the 1st, 4th and 5th rounds when the fight was stopped without a count. In October 2003, Morales defeated Guty Espadas Jr. in a rematch of their first close fight. This time Morales knocked him out in three rounds.