By Fiona Manning
Two-time world champion Erik ‘El Terrible’ Morales breezed into Jesus Chavez’ hometown of Austin, Texas on Tuesday morning and managed to upstage the local hero in a barb-trade presser for their ‘Brave Warriors Collide’ world title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 28.
Morales, who is stepping up from the 126 division to challenge ‘El Matador’ Chavez for his WBC 130 pound belt, had trophy hunting on his mind and jokes on his lips as he faced the press, taking them for his own.
Chavez could only look on and marvel at the way Morales can hold a crowd especially a crowd that has largely supported Chavez during his lengthy and now legendary travails.
The presser, held at Dave & Buster’s restaurant in Austin, was attended by local media and fight fans who happily posed for photos with their idols.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said tickets for the fight are already selling briskly and it’s no wonder. This is one of the most eagerly anticipated fights in boxing and the type of fight Arum drools over: an all-Mexican barnburner.
Though Morales, who is 45-1, with 34 knockouts, was originally slated to challenge Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez for his IBF 130 pound championship, he veered towards Chavez who is 40-2, with 28 knockouts because he wants the WBC title.
Since he has been named WBC Champion Forever by the sanctioning body for which he has held 122 pound and 126 pound titles, Morales feels an affinity and allegiance to the organization.
“Let’s see if he [Jesus Chavez] can handle the pressure in a big fight like this,” Morales said as if the champion were not even standing beside him.
“Chavez has been in two big fights and he lost the first one to [Floyd] Mayweather [Jr],” Morales said. “I want to see how he handles it when people get into his head about this fight, talking to him every single day for the next several months.”
“I can handle more pressure than he thinks,” said Chavez. “I respect Erik Morales but he has never had to go through what I have experienced in my life. He has no idea of the sort of mental toughness I have had to adopt just to survive.”
Chavez has had a rough two years waiting for the former WBC champion Sirimonkol Singman-assak to fight him.
Five different times Chavez trained to face the Thai fighter, both here in the US and even in Thailand. Four times Singmanas-sak pulled out at the last minute.
When the two finally met earlier this year, as Chavez put it, “I punished him for making me wait so long.”
Setbacks seem to be a way of life for the boyish-looking Chavez. He spent 10 years in a Chicago prison for his part in a liquor store robbery when he was a teenager.
Upon his release, the US-born Chavez whose family had moved here illegally from Mexico when he was three, was immediately deported back to Mexico, a country he did not know and to a language he could not speak.
After living with his grandparents for a year, his father helped smuggle him across the border back to the US. He relocated to Austin, Texas where he began his boxing career under his assumed name of Jesus Chavez.
He racked up quite a record and was on his way to a world championship when he applied for a driver’s license and somebody put two and two together and Chavez was re-arrested and deported back to Tijuana ironically Morales’ home town.
This time, he did things legally, with the help of his promoter, Bob Arum who clearly adores Chavez like a son. Arum received official clemency from then-Texas governor George Bush and Jesus Chavez, who now speaks fluent Spanish, obtained a green card.
“If I had to choose between my green card and my world championship it would be no contest,” he said on Tuesday. “I would pick my green card because it’s the most important thing in the world to me.”
Morales who knew of Chavez’s story, said he has respect for the man but said, “Chavez is strong. I know he has heart. He’ll give it all he has but I will still beat him up.”
Chavez is philosophical about the trash talk. “I’ve got something Morales wants - something I worked all my life to get,” he said, holding his green WBC title belt at the podium.
“I promise everyone here I will beat Morales and bring this title belt back to Austin where it belongs. I will fight with all of my heart. I’m in a sweat right now. That’s how much I want to fight Morales.”
‘El Terrible’ is so confident of victory that he said he is also considering a third bout next year with his long-time nemesis, Mexico City superstar Marco Antonio Barrera.
Amazingly, Morales was generous in his opinion of Barrera’s shock loss to Filipino bomber Manny Pacquiao two weeks ago. “He is not shot, he is not finished,” he said via translation from his manager Fernando.
Morales who usually enjoys taking pot shots at Barrera said, “I think he’s been having difficult times. It was hard for him to get excited about facing Pacquiao. He’ll get excited about facing me,” he said.
Promoter Arum also announced that the ‘Brave Warriors Collide’ fight card will include undefeated Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto, who stopped Carlos Maussa this past weekend in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Cotto, 18-0, will defend his WBC International super lightweight title.
In a battle of undefeated junior welterweights, Cotto punished Maussa in a brutal bout until the fight was stopped at 2:08 of round eight.
“Cotto dropped Mausa in round three, than battered and bloodied Maussa until the bout was halted,” Arum said. “It was very impressive and we are very happy to have Miguel Cotto on board for this fight.”
Tickets for “Brave Warriors Collide” are available and the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino has put together a special flight, hotel and ticket package for fight fans. The Fight Hotline number is 888-523-2273 or go to www.myb.com.