Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
This is the story of an athlete that knew the right way in life.
Danny Morales had the best training in the boxing ring with Willie Hall as his mentor and trainer. Morales could out-hit opponents in the ring, but he could not out-hit heartbreak and bad choices, which led to a life of low self-esteem, the loss of his leg and the loss of his freedom.
The reason this story is so relevant in the “Where Are They Now” series is that it shows no matter what happens, a man can fight his way back against all odds. It proves no one is ever too old to put their life back together, no matter what they’ve gone through.
On Sunday, Sept. 23, Morales traveled to San Jose, Calif., to fight Rick Bobigian in the Open Division of the Dreamland Master Boxing World Championship.
To make his dream of winning a championship happen, he needed divine inspiration, and the help of people inspired by his story to turn his life around. Morales spent all he had to finance his trip.
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Friends took up a collection when they heard he didn’t have money to eat and Perry Toles paid for his hotel room, so he’d have a place to stay.
To win the championship, Morales, 63, would have to fight Bobigian, 69, of Houston, Texas, who weighs 185 pounds.
Morales was the starting quarterback as a sophomore at Roswell High School. He felt that his high school season was derailed by the tragic death of his close friend Rudy Jimenez.
That team once scored 81 points on a team from Albuquerque, in the 1974 season, which is still a Roswell football record. But two losses following Jimenez’ death kept them out of the playoffs. Morales also ran track for RHS and still holds records in the hurdles.
An accomplished boxer, he would run 10 miles a day and spar with the best boxers the Air Force had at the time. He would eventually win four Golden Gloves championships and spar with Roger and Sugar Ray Leonard in the 1976 Olympic boxing team training camp.
“When I was at my best, “Morales said, “I remember Willie Hall telling me, ‘If you run 10 miles a day no one can beat you.’ Willie Hall made me spar with 24-ounce gloves while I was training — that’s the kind of vision he had in his fighters. After fighting and running with those gloves, the rest of boxing was easier.”
Morales also represented Roswell and the Air Force in the National Golden Gloves tournament in 1979. While in the Air Force his record was 22-3 with five Golden Gloves championships.
He also won the Okinawa Overseas Championship in ’79. Morales’ official boxing record is 283 wins, with only nine defeats.
In North Dakota, he won four consecutive Golden Gloves championships from 1975 to 1978, with a 13-second knockout in one and 11-second knockout in another. Morales trained former light heavyweight championship Virgil Hill.
Morales found that he loved to drink and do drugs as much as he loved to box while he was in the Air Force. In the Air Force barracks there was a machine that looked like a pop machine, only it had beer in it. He just drank recreationally at first, but then it consumed him.
Still driven to box, he would get up and log his 10 miles a day to stay in fighting shape.
His downfall began was he was heartbroken after being given divorce papers by his then-wife. It was at Christmas. Unable to deal with the hurt the right way, Morales’ self-esteem plummeted. He earned the rank of sergeant in the Air Force — after his divorce, he was busted to private before he was discharged.
He came back to Roswell and worked with Willie Hall at New Mexico Military Institute training Job Corps fighters. While doing that he continued to box and party and joined a motorcycle gang.
In 1984 Morales, then 27, came home early from work and caught his girlfriend in bed with one of his motorcycle buddies. He beat up his buddy.
Afraid the police would be called, he went on a binge of drinking and drug use.
“After that night,” Morales said, “I told my brother, if the police are going to catch me, let them catch me on the highway. This is my last night of partying.”
The next night, he and his friends went to a bar and continued to party. After leaving a bar some of his friends suggested that they give him a ride home.
Morales was so protective of his bike that he wouldn’t let anyone ride it and told his friend that he was in good enough shape to ride.
Morales took off on his Harley Davidson Super Glide motorcycle. He took a turn at 120 mph when the posted speed limit was 40 mph. It was the road where Wayward Look is, the back road that leads to Walmart, Pine Lodge Road. Morales took the turn and wrecked, losing his leg in the accident.
He saw his leg fly off, he said, and his other leg wrapped around his head. The injuries were so severe that his friends thought he was dead.
“When I saw that,” Morales said, “I said ‘I hope that ain’t my leg.’ When it happened, I knew I didn’t have a leg.”
All of this happened in April when he was supposed to have his first professional fight for a world title. Morales was originally pronounced DOA at the hospital but was brought back to life and in a coma for five days with his severed leg on ice.
In the coma, Morales believes he saw a vision, that he woke up on the beaches of hell, there was light like a sunset. While there Morales saw the beaches were full of people.
People were being thrown into the fire, begging God for forgiveness and mercy.
Morales believes he heard God’s voice that told him to change his life and help kids.
Part of his pledge to God was to go to church and help kids, or he was going to spend 20 years in prison. Instead of living for God he went back to partying and living the lifestyle he wanted to live. Eventually, he would go to prison for setting fire to his mother’s house. For that, he received a three-year sentence. It was while in prison that he was first introduced to heroin and cocaine. Later he would be arrested for trafficking drugs in his prosthetic leg. He would be arrested a total of four times with nine felonies. Because he was a boxer and his hands were considered lethal weapons, he was charged with use of a deadly weapon and would spend 20 years in prison, just like God told him.
Upon getting out of prison in March 2002, he lived with his mother for six months until she kicked him out. From 2002 to 2008, Morales says he was high every day.
He went with his family to visit his aunt in a nursing home in Phoenix, Arizona.
His mother told him it was time to pray to God, for him to take the drugs away.
“Everyone prayed for me at the moment in the nursing home and instantly I was healed,” he said. “I have been clean since June 21, 2008.”
Morales came to realize that without God, everything is in vain.
He is fulfilling his mission, helping kids in boxing and keeping his vow to God.
He has returned to his first love, boxing, and he boxes to prove to himself that he can still compete despite his handicap of having only one leg.
Morales showed up to fight Bobigian in the Open Division of the Dreamland Masters Boxing World Championship, Sept. 22-23 in San Jose, California. The championship was sponsored by Title Boxing, which is sanctioned by the USA Boxing/ Northern California Local Boxing Commission.
Morales showed up at the weigh-in for two days and Bobigian did not — and by not showing up he gave up the championship to Morales. Morales felt that God had touched his heart and Bobigian walked away from the title. Bobigian told Morales his heart went out to him and decided not to fight to allow Morales to live his dream of being a champion.
“You get what you deserve in life,” Morales said. “You reap, you sow. … Prison taught me to respect others and to keep your word.
“I learned that you can go from good to bad to ugly in one day if you let something little affect your mind. Without God nothing is possible, but with God all things are possible.”
Morales lives in Ruidoso and continues to train — and train younger fighters to pass on the trade secrets, things Willie Hall and the Anaya’s taught him in boxing. He also comes back to Roswell to visit his mother and family.