They never met in the ring, but Mexican boxing legends Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales have been jousting outside of the ropes. 

Four-weight world champion Morales lit the touch paper this week after suggesting they never fought because Marquez was not competing at the same level when ‘El Terrible’ was in his prime. 

Morales (52-9, 36 KOs) also reminded fight fans that he beat Manny Pacquiao (W12) at the first time of asking while Marquez took four attempts to derail the great Filipino (D12, L12, L12, WTKO6).

With some justification, three-division champion Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) took umbrage at those comments, reminding Morales that he fought Pacquaio so often because of the controversial decisions in their first three encounters.

“He says he did not need four fights to beat Pacquiao, but you have to remember that in the first fight Erik Morales did pretty well and then what happened? He ended up getting knocked out by the Filipino fighter [twice, LTKO10, LKO3],” Marquez told ESPN Deportes. 

“I needed four fights, why? That is very obvious and people know it, because each of those fights ended with controversial decisions, decisions where I beat [Pacquiao] in my opinion. Everyone has his opinion, but Pacquiao himself was not satisfied with what he did in every fight and even the decisions, especially in the third fight.

“I respect the career of any fighter and their opinion… in this case Erik Morales, but I do not agree with what he says. People know what I was capable of, people know what I did in the ring. He mentions that he only needed one fight to beat [Pacquiao], but what he didn’t tell you is what happened after that, in the second and third fight. 

“I needed four fights and 42 rounds to show who had won in the previous [three] fights and the truth is I was very satisfied with having done what I did, facing at that time a great fighter like Manny Pacquiao.”

Master counter-puncher Marquez, who was wisely avoided by Naseem Hamed in their featherweight days, then claimed he was denied a rightful mandatory title shot against Morales.

“The fight never happened [even though] I was in the best position to fight for the [featherweight] championship. I was ranked No.1; we even went to the house of the president of the World Boxing Council to request that opportunity,” said Marquez. 

“If I remember correctly, when Barrera beat Erik Morales in their third contest. Barrera left the title vacant. I was ranked No.1 by the WBC and they make the rules. [But] what they did was have Erik Morales and Paulie Ayala fight for the vacant belt [in November 2002] instead of me. That opportunity was presented to Morales [even] after losing the contest with Barrera.”

Earlier this month, Boxing Social ranked the greatest fighters in Mexican boxing history to commemorate the nation’s Cinco De Mayo celebration. Inevitably, Marquez, Morales and great rival Marco Antonio Barrera made the Top 10. See where they ranked here.