WBA Flyweight Champ Eric Morel defends his title December 15th against Gilberto Keb Baas, the WBAís #12 ranked contender. The fight will be televised by ESPN2. I caught up with Eric a week before the fight. Hereís what he had to say.
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Interview by: Marc Lichtenfeld Lichtenfeld: Howís training going so far? Morel: Itís going great. Iím training very hard. Lichtenfeld: What do you know about your opponent? Morel: Nothing at all. Heís a very very good fighter. Heís coming from a big win. He beat Melchor Cob Castro, former 2 times world champion. (Keb Baas took a 10 round decision from Castro in June) Lichtenfeld: Have you watched any tape on him? Morel No not at all. Lichtenfeld: Do you ever watch tape on your opponents? Morel: Yes I do but unfortunately they donít have tape on this guy. Lichtenfeld: Your cutman Miguel Diaz watched him spar in Vegas and called him the most complete fighter youíve faced. How are you preparing for that? Morel: They are going to come and fight. They want something that I have. Iím always prepared mentally and physically. It took me a long time to get where I am, and Iím going to be here for a long time. Iím not going to just let it go like that. Lichtenfeld: Are you concerned at all about his power? Morel: Iíve fought guys that have more knockouts than him. The guy I took the title away from had 17 knockouts in 19 wins. I donít let that bother me. I just prepare myself to go in there, do my thing and look good. Lichtenfeld: Do you prepare any differently for an opponent with knockout power as opposed to an opponent who is more of a boxer? Morel: Not at all. I just train the same. When I step in the ring I do what I have to do. Iím a boxer that can adjust to his style very quick. That doesnít really concern me at all. Lichtenfeld: So whatís your game plan going in? Morel: Just be smart, be slick, quick. Hit and not get hit. Thatís the name of the game and thatís exactly what Iím going to do. Lichtenfeld: What about the fact that Gilberto Keb-Baas is already talking about giving you a rematch in Mexico after he comes to Madison and takes your title. Does that kind of talk give you extra motivation? Morel: You know what, though? They all say the same thing. Of course theyíre going to have to have confidence in themselves. They have to believe in themselves to be a boxer, to step into the ring. There is one thing for sure, I give him a lot of repect for being a boxer and for thinking like that. I sure give him a lot of respect. But now on December 15th itís going to be a whole different story. Weíll see if heís going to back it up. One thing is talking, itís another to back it up. Weíre going to see if heís going to do what heís talking about. They all say that. They all say theyíre going to knock me out. They end up eating a lot of leather. Thatís how it is. They all say, ďwell Iím going to knock you out. Iíve seen a lot of tapes of you,Ē this and that. OK. Cool. Thatís normal. Of course youíre going to try and knock me out. But letís see if thatís going to happen. Lichtenfeld: What does fighting in Madison do for your confidence? Morel: It gives me a lot of confidence but at the same time it puts a lot of pressure on me. But hey, Iím a champion and I prepare mentally for these kind of things. Lichtenfeld: An article I read recently was criticizing your last bout as unexciting. Does criticsm affect you? Do you think I have to knock thr guy out because Iím fighting on TV? Morel: As long as I win it doesnít matter which way. As long as I beat him clearly, where thereís no doubt. It really doesnít matter to me how I win as long as I win. Lichtenfeld: Is there a possiblity that HBO, or any other network may be less willing to show your fights because in their minds theyíre not as exciting because there arenít knockouts? Morel: Well, I donít know what they think but I know what I have to do to win a fight and thatís exactly what I do. A knockout is something that comes. Iím not going to look for a knockout. If I have the opportunity Iím going to go for it. If I donít, Iím not going to look for a knockout to look good because if I do, I could get knocked out. Thatís why I just step in the ring and do what I have to do to win the fight. Lichtenfeld: What are your plans after this bout, who would you like to fight next? Morel: I leave all that up to my promoter, manager and trainer. They sit down and talk about deals and money. Whatever they say if the money is right. Iíll do whatever. Iím a boxer, Iím a figher , Iím a champion. Iím a great champion and Iíll fight anybody at any weight class and I hope theyíre at their best. Because I can really show the world that none of the 112, 115, 118, 122 pounders can hang in there with me. Lichtenfeld: So does that mean youíll eventually move back up in weight? Morel: Whatever my promoter wants me to do, thatís exactly what Iím going to do, as long as the money is right. Lichtenfeld: How has your life changed since youíve become a champion? Morel: Iím just the same guy as I always was. Like I said before I got the belt, when I get a world title, Iím not going to change a bit. Why? Because I know where I came from. Because Iíve got a belt and life has become much easier, because of the money and all that, it doesnít mean that Iím going to have to change. No, no, no. Iím helping whoever needs my help. Iíve been like that all my life and Iíll be like that 20 years from now. Lichtenfeld: Do you find yourself getting recognized in the streets now? Morel: Yes. A lot more. It makes me feel proud. Showing that all the work, the pain, the suffering that I went through. It makes me feel proud for what I have done throughout my career, that people are recognizing that. Writers notes: I was told by a mutual friend what a great guy Eric Morel is. After talking with him, I wonít argue. I found him to be friendly, humble and completely confident. He is grateful for the things he has, yet feels that he deserves them because of all his hard work and sacrifices he has endured. My thanks to Mike Fitzgerald for helping to arrange the interview.