When Pablo Cesar Cano steps in the ring on Saturday against a tough opponent who goes by “El Terrible,” he’ll have already experienced that.
Cano (24-1-1, 15 knockouts) headlines this week’s Fox Deportes-televised offering against Johan Perez in a bout for the interim WBA junior welterweight title.
The 22-year-old Mexican is coming off two consecutive solid wins over Francisco Contreras and Fidel Monterrosa Munoz, but it’s a loss to the original “El Terrible,” Erik Morales, that allowed him to get this big opportunity.
“It was something very special, vying for the world title in the United States,” said Cano, who was stopped by Morales last September on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz. “I got so much experience in that fight, and eventually, through my other fights, I started to me noticed by the TV networks, the radio and the media in general.”
According to the prevalent model for moving up-and-coming fighters these days, putting a 21-year-old prospect in the ring against a future Hall of Famer would be career suicide, let alone subjecting him to a loss on the undercard of a major pay-per-view event.
Typically, fighters Cano’s age who have the kind of upside he has haven’t even been in a fight in which they weren’t favored.
It’s a route the rugged youngster could have taken. With the backing of Golden Boy Promotions, and a couple regional titles around his waist by the age of 21, he could have rode the cozy sanctioning body express all the way to a mandatory title shot years down the road.
But Cano felt he would never become an elite fighter if he had never dealt with adversity.
What’s the harm in losing to an all-time great on short notice anyway, so long as you put up a game effort?
Arguably, Cano and Morales stole the show that night, with the younger man taking an early lead, before the old master started to wear him down. Cano fought valiantly, constantly throwing his hands while peering through two swollen eyes and a crimson mask of blood before referee Kenny Bayless decided it was no longer necessary to continue.
It was, however, necessary for Cano to experience.
“Since I came into boxing, me and my father said in order to become one of the best, you have to face the best. In order to get big victories, you need to face good opposition. You have to take tough fights, or else you’re moving backwards,” Cano told RingTV.com.
In Perez (15-0-1, 12 KOs), he’s chosen another stern test, and another fight in which he will be the underdog. The Venezuelan interim titlist is rallying off a pair of fourth-round TKOs over Kenny Galarza and Fernando Castadena, prompting Golden Boy Promotions to scoop him up and put him under their banner.
“After this fight big fights could come to Johan, like Humberto Soto and Lucas Matthysse. This division is very talented and Johan is to face the best,” said Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz, who was intrigued by his aggressive style.
Cano, also promoted by Golden Boy, is every bit as aggressive as his opponent on Saturday, but he’s acutely aware of what he’ll be running into as he marches forward.
In fact, he welcomes it.
“He has lots of power, very tall for the division, lots of stuff to be concerned with. But I honestly feel it’s going to be a war. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch,” said Cano. “I feel very motivated for this second opportunity. This title is going to stay in Mexico.”
It won’t be easy, but that’s just the way he likes it.
Photos / Ethan Miller-Getty Images