LAS VEGAS — Junior welterweight Pablo Cesar Cano knows what he’s up against, and he does not seem to care.
“I’m strong, and I am ready, and every professional boxer wants this,” said Cano. “Trust me, I want this. I’m very, very hungry for this.”
At the tender age of 21 years old, Cano will be fighting 34-year-old, three-division titlewinner Erik Morales on scarcely a week’s notice, in what will be his debut in Las Vegas, and only his third fight at 140 pounds — the highest weight at which he has ever competed.
Cano’s father and trainer, Pablo Sr., will share instructional duties with veteran corner man Rudy Perez, which may or may not lead to confusion come crunch time.
In addition, Morales has more than twice as many victories and double the number of knockouts as Cano. Having fought in Las Vegas some 15 times, Morales will no doubt be the crowd favorite.
But don’t tell Cano he’s an underdog.
Cano is bidding to win the WBC’s vacant title belt against Morales on the undercard of a main event featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. (41-0, 25 KOs) against WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs) on HBO Pay Per View from the MGM Grand on Saturday night.
Cano was called in to replace hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse (28-2, 26 KOs) after Matthysse came down with a viral infection that hindered his preparation.
“I was preparing myself for another opponent, and then, they told me about this fight and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll go,’” said Cano. “This is like my trampoline. This is the jumping off point of my career.”
Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) scored his first professional victory with a second-round stoppage of Jose Orejel in March of 1993 when Cano (22-0-1, 17 KOs) was only three years old, and captured his initial world title when Cano was 7 by knocking out Daniel Zaragoza.
“I know that he was champion of the world at the age of 21 years old himself, and that that was against Zaragoza,” said Cano.
“I didn’t even think about fighting Erik Morales at that time because I was very young, but now, it’s my opportunity of a lifetime at the age of 21 years old just as he was.”
One of five Mexican fighters to have earned title belts in three divisions, along with Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Fernando Montiel., Morales can become the first of his countrymen to earn a fourth crown over the course of as many divisions.
Morales, of Tijuana, Mex., is perhaps most recognized for his battles with Barrera (66-7, 43 KOs), of Mexico City, having lost twice in a trilogy that ranks with prestige and status.
Cano has been cast as the replacement for Barrera in the Mexican rivalry, and the youngster believes that he is up to the task.
Cano is being trained by his father and Perez, the latter of whom worked with Barrera, and, most recently, with Marcos Maidana during Maidana’s disputed victory over Morales in April.
“I don’t like to watch videos of my opponents, but I just know that everything can change in the ring, so I’m ready for anything in the ring,” said Cano.
“I’m prepared mentally and physically for this. This is the beginning of big things for me. I mean, this is a career opportunity.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com