Saturday, April 9, 2011 | 11:58 p.m.
Marcos Maidana wants to fight Juan Manuel Marquez next.
Chances are boxing fans, at least those inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, would prefer the super lightweight take a rematch with Erik Morales.
Maidana won a hard-fought majority decision Saturday against Morales for the WBA interim title, prevailing in a slugfest of a fight that will surely be in contention for the 2011 fight of the year.
Maidana started strong by landing a series of powerful blows to Morales’ face in the first round that forced his right eye to swell shut. But just when it appeared the veteran Morales wouldn’t make it the distance, he turned in one of the best efforts of his career.
Judge Dick Houck saw the fight 114-all, and judges Adalaide Byrd and Jerry Roth scored in 116-112 to give the majority decision to Maidana. The outcome is easily debatable.
“I think it was a close fight but not a clean win for him,” Morales said. “What did you see? I think I won the fight and threw better punches. I thought I was better.”
Morales, who briefly retired in 2007 after four consecutive losses, showed he has a little left in the tank. Morales was considered to be in the twilight of his career, the result of three drag-out (and entertaining) fights with Manny Pacquiao — he went 1-2 against boxing’s unquestioned top pound-for-pound fighter.
However, Morales showed there is still a little tread left on his tires.
“I fought with my heart,” said Morales, who in 2005 handed Pacquiao his last defeat. “I am going to do what the people want, and the people the rematch.”
Maidana (30-2) was also involved in what several feel was the best fight of 2010, losing a back-and-forth fight against Amir Khan in December at Mandalay Bay. Maidana started slowly in that fight but dominated the final three rounds. Against Morales, he also dominated late — winning the final two rounds on all three judges’ scorecards.
“I trained to win. I was prepared for (Morales’ toughness),” Maidana said.
Morales, a former junior featherweight, junior lightweight and featherweight champion, wouldn’t quit and kept attacking until the end. With a majority of the 7,154 fans in attendance chanting, “Mexico, Mexico,” the Tijuana resident Morales seemed to feed off their energy.
“Morales is a good, strong fighter,” Maidana said. “He should continue to fight. The fight was close, but I came out strong at the end. This was my toughest fight ever.”
The fight was supposed to be a mismatch with Maidana closing as a -500 betting favorite (gamblers would win $100 for every $500 bet) at the MGM sports book. And early on, the oddsmakers were right, as Maidana made Morales look every bit of a 34-year-old fighter on his last leg.
But the savvy veteran Morales (51-7) refused to go down. After gaining some momentum, he was able to take advantage of poor technique by Maidana in several stages of the fight to land several solid punches.
Give credit to Morales for making the bout the early favorite for fight of the year. Just don’t expect Maidana to take a rematch — there are several more attractive fights, especially against Marquez, that he is looking at. Marquez is the WBA and WBO lightweight belt holder.
“I would like the rematch, but there are other fighters in the division I would want to fight as well,” Maidana said.
Guerrero impressive in lightweight win
In the undercard, lightweight Robert Guerrero had his way with Michael Katsidis in a convincing 117-108, 118-106, 118-107 victory to cement his status as one of the division’s best.
“I’m a warrior. Sometimes you have to beat the guy at his own game,” said Guerrero, who won the vacant WBA and WBO interim titles. “I got in there and worked my jabs and punches.”
Guerrero (29-1-1) landed a remarkable 49 percent of his punches, connecting on 410 of 836 attempts in leaving Katsidis face severely cut and swollen. Katsidis only landed 105 punches.
“You haven’t seen the best of Robert Guerrero yet,” he said.
A confident Guerrero added, “I’m ready for anyone. I want a shot at Marquez, the winner of the main event (Maidana), Zab Judah at 140 or Mayweather. Bring them all. I’ll take the shot.”