LAS VEGAS — Erik Morales, of Tijuana, Mex., overcame a spirited effort by previously unbeaten 21-year-old Pablo Cesar Cano, stopping him for a 10th round TKO to earn the WBC's vacant junior welterweight belt and to become the first Mexican fighter to win a crown in a fourth weight class before a raucous crowd at MGM Grand Arena on Saturday night.
Morales entered the match up as 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.
"He's a young fighter and he throws a lot of punches. It took me some time to get my rhythm, but when I did, I was clearly the better fighter," said Morales. "I'm really happy about the fourth world title, but it was a little more difficult than I thought that it would be."
Morales and Cano waged a bloody war that resulted in each of the fighters bleeding from their left eyes, but Morales was less affected thanks to his experience.
When Cano returned to his corner after the 10 round, ringside doctors advised his corner, worked by Pablo Cesar Cano Sr. and Rudy Perez, to stop the fight, which it did.
"I could tell that the blood was making him nervous, and with him bleeding profusely, he was a little scared, and it affected him," said the 34-year-old Morales improved to 52-7 with his 35th knockout, dropping the 21-year-
Cano was a replacement for the hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse (28-2, 26 KOs) of Argentina, who withdrew earlier in the week with a viral infection.
Morales led on the judges cards of Tim Miller and Ricardo Ocasiso, with Dave Moretti having it even at 95-95.
Morales out-landed Cano, 214-207, overall, with an advantage of 100-to-82 in jabs. Cano landed more power punches, 119-114.
"The cut definitely affected me. I think I would have finished 12 rounds had I not been cut. I'm a little upset because, obviously, I wanted to win," said Cano.
"But I went in there with little notice and did what I had to do. I fought a legendary fighter, and hopefully now, the world knows who Pablo Cesar is."
Morales retired in August of 2007, after losing his fourth straight fight by unanimous decision to David Diaz in a failed bid to earn the WBC lightweight title.
But since returning to the sport in March of last year, Morales has won four of five bouts, and was coming off of April's disputed majority decision loss to hard-hitting Marcos Maidana (30-2, 27 KOs), a fight that most ringsiders thought he had won.
"I was ready to fight Lucas Matthysse," said Morales, "Bbut circumstances happen, so I fought Pablo."
Morales-Cano was the second HBO Pay Per View televised bout on the under card of a main event featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. (41-0, 25 KOs) against WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs).
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 among the greatest of all time.
Five months after falling to Barrera for the second time, Morales out-pointed Pacquiao in March 2005. But Morales lost his next four fights after that, culminating with the loss to Diaz.
Morales ended a 31-month ring absence with a unanimous decision over Jose Alfaro in March of last year, his first of three straight victories. Morales then lost the disputed majority decision to Maidana.