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UNDERCARD: MORALES DEFENDS TITLE WITH DECISION.

Byline: Nevin Barich Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES - Erik Morales hasn't been finding life easy in the featherweight championship ranks.

For the second consecutive fight, Morales was taken the distance, pounding out another 12-round unanimous decision, this one over mandatory challenger Injin Chi in his first defense of the WBC featherweight title in front of 20,409 Saturday night at Staples Center.

Judges Lou Filippo, James Jen Kin and Daniel Van De Wiele all favored Morales by scores of 116-111, 117-110 and 116-112, respectively. The Daily News scored it 116-111 for Morales.

In his last bout in February, Morales (41-0, 31 knockouts) looked lethargic in winning a controversial unanimous decision over Guty Espadas to win the title.

In this fight, Morales seemed far fresher in landing combinations throughout. But that didn't make his task any easier as Chi (24-2, 14 KOs) walked through Morales' best shots and pressured the champion throughout.

The first five rounds featured several toe-to-toe exchanges, with Morales' pinpoint punches and nine-inch reach advantage helping to give him the edge. In the sixth round, a headbutt caused Morales' left eye to bleed and swell shut.

``The first time he headbutted me, the referee didn't see it,'' said Morales, who also complained that Chi used dirty tactics throughout the fight. ``So he did it right back again and that's when he opened up the cut.''

The rest of the fight featured Chi continuing to attempt to bully his way inside, while Morales mixed in more jabs with his combinations to try to keep Chi, who had a point taken away in the 10th round for holding behind the head, at bay. Morales' strategy proved more successful as he pulled away the second half of the fight, surviving a desperate rally by Chi in the 12th round.

``I had a hard time seeing him after the headbutt and that's why I didn't go for the knockout,'' Morales said, ``because I thought he might try to get me again with his head.''

There has been talk that Morales' next fight will be a rematch with Espadas in December, with Morales' Mexican countryman Marco Antonio Barrera fighting Julio Pablo Chacon for the lightly regarded WBO featherweight title on the same card.

Morales and Barrera fought a breathtaking war in February of last year for Morales' junior featherweight championship, with Morales winning a controversial split decision.

If both are victorious, there's talk of a Morales-Barrera fight around Cinco de Mayo weekend.

In another championship bout, a WBA welterweight title fight between champion Andrew ``Six Heads'' Lewis and mandatory challenger Ricardo Mayorga was declared a no contest after the fighters clashed heads in the second round, resulting in a severe cut over Lewis' left eye.

Lewis (21-0-1, 1 no contest, 19 KOs) was trying to land a straight left when the accidental headbutt occurred. The ringside doctor declared Lewis could not continue and the referee stopped the fight.

--Other bouts: In a junior welterweight contest, Miguel Cotto (6-0, 4 KOs) knocked out Arturo Rodriguez (11-6, 6 KOs) in the second round. In lightweight action, Olympic bronze medalist Carlos Bejarano (4-0, 4 KOs) scored a fourth-round stoppage of Lee Willis (1-2, O KOs) and Carlos Urias (5-5, 3 KOs) upset Lemuel Nelson (20-5, 10 KOs) via split decision over eight rounds.

Heavyweight Javier Mora (10-0-1, 9 KOs) was forced to go the distance for only the second time in his career but won a four-round unanimous decision over perennial loser Brad Rone (7-31, 1 KO). And in a four-round women's junior lightweight bout, Mia Rosales St. John (22-0-1, 12 KOs) was held to a draw by wild-swinging Imelda Arias (8-12-1, 8 KOs).

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Injin Chi, right, battles Erik Morales in the WBC featherweight championship at Staples Center.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 29, 2001
Words:629
Previous Article:PERCIVAL SLAMS DOOR ON ORIOLES RIPKEN WATCHES AS ANGELS COME BACK ANGELS 6, BALTIMORE 4.
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