Like many of his peers, Victor Morales Jr. didn’t fight in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that shook up the world both in and out of boxing, but he stayed sharp thanks to a Spartan work ethic and the belief that even without a sanctioned bout, a prospect can always get better.

“It kinda brought my hunger back, knowing that I wasn't getting any fights, and I knew that if I took a break like a lot of the people that did, it was gonna show when I got back in, so my thing was, we stayed in the gym every single day, and we just worked, worked, worked and worked.”

Add in plenty of tape watching, and the unbeaten featherweight was going to be ready if the phone rang for him to step through the ropes and follow up his November 2019 shutout over Diuhl Olguin, a victory that improved his pro record to 13-0.

It didn’t, but the work didn’t stop. And while it wouldn’t normally be considered work, taking a break from the gym was also essential for Morales’ well-being.

“We trained every day, but obviously we have to take those mental breaks and I absolutely took advantage of every second that we could,” he said. “I spent time with my family that I haven't been able to spend with them for the last 16 years.”

Let that sink in for a second.

Sure, Morales is a hot prospect with the skills and charisma to become a golden boy for the Golden Boy Promotions team, and usually fighters like that take their fair share of social media abuse as if they’ve been gifted such a situation.

But for 16 of his 23 years, Morales has lived his life nearly 24/7 in the most unforgiving of sports. He’s not alone, either. His father trains him. His mother is a USA Boxing official. And his three brothers all box. So while the world paused last year, he and his family finally got to take their own pause. Yeah, boxing was still part of the daily routine, but there was also time made for living outside of that bubble.

“The summer that I never had for 16 years since I started boxing, I got to have that last year and it really benefitted me mentally and it made up for the lost time that I didn't spend with my family,” he said. “It was quality time, because our vacations before that were always boxing trips. Our vacations were trips to Nationals as an amateur, and this time on the West Coast in Oregon, we have a lot of dunes, so we got a bunch of sand toys and we spent the time we could on the weekends and just went out and kind of freed up the mind as a family on the sand, and that was our way of coming together and stepping away from that one hundred percent boxing all the time. Some people can do it, but a lot of people, that's how they lose their drive in boxing; it's like a 9 to 5 for them. That's not what I wanted it to be for me.”


If Morales sounds more mature than most in the sport, that’s accurate. That goes not just for fighters his age, but those who have ten or more years on him. He says that during 2020 he felt like he was starting to get his “man strength.” I told him that shouldn’t happen until he’s 30, so maybe his maturity means he’s lying about his age to all of us.

“The worst part is, I get a lot of people asking me how old I am,” he laughs. “They think that I'm still a teenager.”

Well, maybe they just haven’t seen him fight. If they did, they would have seen the maturity in his style and the potential for even bigger things down the line. His talent is certainly respected at home, where Portland Monthly magazine published a story in their December 2019 issue titled, “Is Victor Morales Jr. the Best Boxer to Ever Come Out of Portland?”

Did he see it?

“I did.”

That’s got to be something to be put on your shoulders. Now granted, Portland isn’t exactly a hotbed of pro boxing, with the most notable names being Denny Moyer, Steve Forbes, Ray Lampkin and Thad Spencer, but Morales – who now makes his home in Vancouver – has a lot of pride about where he’s from, and he wants to live up to the expectations.

“It's something that I'm working towards,” he said. “When you think of boxing, you don't look over to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana. Those are the Pacific Northwest states and no one looks past California up north. So me being from Portland, we looked up to Steve Forbes when we were coming up because he was the only other person that we knew that was successful from Oregon at that time. For me, I'm trying to be better than that. I have all the characteristics - I have the hunger and I'm willing to make the sacrifices and to still promote from home. I will one hundred percent always live in the Pacific Northwest, and that's my goal, to be the best of the Pacific Northwest.”

On Saturday, the former amateur standout finally gets back to work in the punch for pay sense when he faces former IBF junior bantamweight champion Rodrigo Guerrero on the Joseph Diaz-Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov card at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. Beating someone like Guerrero, despite the fact that the Mexican has lost three straight, is a solid notch in Morales’ belt, especially after a long layoff, and he plans on staying as busy as he can in 2021 to make up for lost time.

“This is supposed to be the year that I prove myself and make a name for myself,” he said. “That's what this year is all about. I'm gonna take all the fights that I can and that way every fight I can show that I'm better and better every fight. We're ready to fight anybody.”