Super bantamweight prospect Roman Morales (2-0, 1 KO) of San Ardo, California displayed the superior boxing skills that made him one of the top amateurs of recent years in a nationally televised four-round unanimous decision over game Danny Pantoja (0-4-2) at the Fairfield Sports Center in Fairfield, California this past Friday night.
Morales, 123, looked sharp making his television debut on Telefutura’s popular Solo Boxeo telecast, as he simply had too many skills for the always tough Pantoja, 125. Not only did Morales overcome the nerves of fighting before a television audience, but he dealt with fighting in his opponent’s hometown like an experienced veteran.
“I was a little nervous, but my coach had warned me I was going to be against the crowd because it was his hometown,” recalls Morales, who is promoted by Gary Shaw Productions. “But he told me just to do my best and reminded me that I have been training hard for this. When I was in the locker room I was a little nervous and anxious, but once I stepped out, I felt good. Then once I got into the ring, it all went away. Every time I step into the ring, I just feel good. All of the nervous feelings go away and I just stay concentrated.”
Morales remained focused as he dissected Pantoja with a varied attack over four rounds en route to the shutout decision, 40-36, on all three cards. Pantoja is one of those fighters that own a very deceiving record, as he had been matched incredibly tough in his career, which Morales’ team knew going into the bout. “We knew with this guy, he was going to give us rounds,” said Morales’ trainer Rodolpho Tapia. “He fought Efrain Esquivas, who has a lot of knockouts, and he went the four rounds without getting knocked down. So we knew he could take a punch. And also he fought Aaron Alafa, who is not a great puncher, but was a really good boxer. Then against Jonathan Arrellano, he lasted the full rounds with him also.”
It was a big night, not only for Morales, but for his entire family and friends, who watched the fight on television back in San Ardo. “All of his family came over for a barbeque, and decided to stay to watch the whole show to see what happened,” says Tapia. “We are talking about 50 people at Roman’s house. All of his family, all of his friends, everybody watched the fight.” Luckily the scheduled main event ended in less than a round, which freed up the time for Morales’ bout to make air and bring a happy end to the barbeque. “When Perez knocked out Escalante, and then Tino [Avila] did the same, we knew we were probably going to get on TV. So I called to let them know we were going to be on.”
Morales’ debut in February lasted just one round, so Friday was his first chance to really show off many of the tools he developed as a top amateur and now brings into the pro game. One attribute in particular, which Morales began developing as youngster, will likely draw some attention as he moves up the ladder. “With my stance, it just depends on how I feel, as far as switching back and forth,” says Morales. “Whatever I think I am landing better with, I will stay with that a little more, then switch back. I love fighting both ways because it confuses the guy a little bit and throws him off. It is something I have been doing since I was thirteen, so I think I have it down pretty good. But I am still working on it a little more, so that I don’t get off balance.”
While Pantoja gave a determined effort, Morales noticed some openings he could exploit, which turned the fight completely in his favor. “He was good, but some of his punches were a little too lazy or he would show me his punch, and that is when I would counter him,” recalls Morales. “I think I did hurt him. I let him know right away I wasn’t going to be easy. I wanted him to know that just because it was his hometown, I wasn’t going to let him have anything. I think my power calmed him down a little bit.”
If there was one negative for Morales on Friday it was that he suffered a cut with just seconds to go in the bout, which will cost him an opportunity to fight April 15th. However, Morales sees it as an occurrence which will prepare him better for similar situations down the road. “It was a new experience, but if it ever happens in the earlier rounds, now I will know how it feels,” says Morales. “So I am happy that it happened, it was something new.”
While Pantoja seemed to be the perfect opponent for Morales at this stage in his career, his manager Repo Ric has been hearing from some second guessers that did not agree with his matchmaking choice. “He was the perfect opponent, because we need the rounds,” says Repo, more than happy to defend his decision-making. “Roman showed all of his skills to the world, since we were on national TV, and we needed that because in his first fight he didn’t have the chance to show all of his skills. So we put him on TV with the right person and gave him a chance to show what he has. And I hope the next opponent is like that, because we don’t want any guys to lie down.”
Morales’ trainer was also pleased that his charge was given a tough opponent on Friday night. “I don’t want to take easy fights,” says Tapia. “I want him to be able to show, especially if it is going to be on TV, all of his skills.” For anyone doubting Repo’s ability to move Morales correctly, he has an interesting offer only he could make. “If you think Repo picked the wrong opponent for Roman Morales, and you can do better, get me a ’68 three-door suburban and you can manage him,” challenges Repo Ric.
Roman Morales will return to the site of his professional debut, the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California, for his third pro bout on May 13th. Tickets for the event, promoted by Gary Shaw Productions, have yet to go on sale.