The undefeated rising Cuban isn't satisfied as he prepares to defend his 168-pound title versus Alantez Fox Saturday night on FOX PBC Fight Night.
David Morrell Jr. knows their plight.
He did what they did (story HERE).
The WBA Super Middleweight Champion knows what it’s like to leave everyone he loves behind, taking a life-defying risk wearing nothing but a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, sneakers and a light windbreaker when left Santa Clara, Cuba, four years ago.
Over 25 years ago, a group of 13 Cuban boxers defected to the United States and landed on the pro boxing landscape. Among them were 1992 Olympic bantamweight gold medalist and former WBA super featherweight world champion Joel Casamayor, WBC cruiserweight champion Juan Carlos Gomez, former WBA super lightweight champion Diobelys Hurtado and heavyweight contender Ramon Garbey.
Casamayor, today a rising trainer, was the most accomplished and his career has merited Hall of Fame attention. But most of the collection did not reach the heights that they were expected. Many felt, and still feel, that just getting to the U.S. was their world championship.
Morrell (5-0, 4 KOs) is the latest in the new wave of Cuban pros who aren’t satisfied. This Saturday, the 23-year-old southpaw will defend the WBA title for the second time in a FOX PBC Fight Night headliner (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) against Alantez Fox (28-2-1, 13 KOs) live from The Armory, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Morrell can be grouped with Erislandy Lara, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Yuriorkis Gamboa, Cuban expatriates who have gone on to become multi-titleholders in different weight classes and have remained viable threats throughout their careers.
Morrell arrived in the U.S. through Mexico, leaving on a speedboat from the shores of Cuba. He was fortunate not to endure what most go through, wading through shark-infested waters on leaky rafts, and sometimes being plucked out of the water by the U.S. Coast Guard and sent back to Cuba to a detention center at the Guantanamo Bay American naval base.
Why is this latest incarnation of Cuban pros different from the last influx?
“Things are very different in Cuba now than they were 25 years ago,” Morrell said through a translator. “There’s more necessity, there’s more hunger on the island now. Right now, Cuba is worse than ever. It’s the only way out. We really came here with nothing, just like the other ones, but Cuba is 10-times worse than what that other generation saw.
“There’s no going back. The generations coming up are hungrier than the past, and there are more coming than ever. I’m not saying the last generation were not any weaker or softer. It’s just that this generation had a lot more necessity and the will to survive than the other generation had to.”
Morrell still takes great pride in his Cuban heritage and credits those that came before him in creating a path to a better life. Morrell stresses he respects Casamayor and the previous group of Cuban defectors. Whereas they had crumbs, Morrell and his peer group had less than crumbs. He’s made his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and openly says he loves the U.S. and the opportunity this country has afforded him.
“ Right now, Cuba is worse than ever. ” Undefeated WBA Super Middleweight World Champion - David Morrell Jr.
“I do have a lot to thank the United States for, and I consider myself an American, but I will never forget where I come from and the land where my parents are from, and I will always represent the Cuban flag,” Morrell said.
Morrell says he’s been watching a lot of film on Fox. He feels Fox is a credible fighter, who likes to work his jab. Fox has fought at 160 and now 168. His two losses came against current WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade in October 2017 and he was stopped by Liam Williams in five in December 2019. Since the Williams setback, Fox has won two of his last three, including a no-contest against Habib Ahmed in August 2020.
Fox has boxing skills to stay with Morrell, however, will he be able to withstand Morrell’s power?
Esteemed Houston-based trainer Ronnie Shields, who’s been working with Morrell for the last five weeks, has an aptitude to decipher without seeing who a fighter is by the sound their punch makes on a heavy bag.
When Morrell punches, it sounds like an explosion, equal to another fighter Shields once worked with.
“David punches the heavy bag, it’s the sound a heavyweight would make, and it does remind me of David Tua, who had one of the best left hooks in the sport,” Shields said. “I can tell you any guy in the gym who’s on that bag. Tua used to pop, pop, pop, pop. That’s the difference between Morrell and Rigondeaux and Lara, because they’re little boxers, it’s that, tat, tat.
“When David hits the bag—it’s boom!”
Shields likes Morrell’s focus. He wants Morrell to force Fox to respect him and then close the show.
“David came to the U.S. for a reason, a lot different than the older guys who came from Cuba in the 1990s, Morrell wants to be a world champion,” Shields said. “The other guys, with some exceptions obviously like Casamayor, were just happy to be here. David wants to show everybody that Cuba still has young, up-and-coming fighters that can still win world championships.”
As for Morrell, when he hears his punches echo through the gym, to him, it sounds like a bomb when it detonates.
“This won’t be any different than any of my other performances,” Morrell promised. “I don’t go in there looking for the knockout. But everyone will see what they’ve seen before.
“I’m preparing to launch.”
For a closer look at David Morrell Jr, check out his fighter page.