Mexico City native Pablo Cesar Cano is rising in weight and will be fighting on American soil for the second time in his career, and he will be doing so in his rival’s hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., when he steps into the ring with WBA welterweight titleholder Paulie Malignaggi at Barclays Center on Saturday.
Cano (25-1-1, 19 knockouts), who turned 23 on Oct. 4, strongly believes that he can deliver a late birthday present to himself by scoring his fourth straight victory against Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KOs) in their Showtime-televised fight.
“He believes that he’s ready to climb the ladder and he’s hungry, young guy looking to make a name for himself,” said Malignaggi, who turns 32 on Nov. 23.
“So once you feel like that, and you get into a world title fight, you should be ready to go for the gusto. I’m going to train and be at my best.”
Malignaggi-Cano will take place on the stacked undercard of a Golden Boy-promoted topped by the rematch between RING, WBA and WBC junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia (24-0, 15 KOs), of Philadelphia, and four-division titleholder Erik Morales (52-8, 36 KOs), of Mexico City.
Being billed “Brooklyn Pride,” the event also boasts several fighters from the East Coast as Garcia headlines with a return bout against Morales, whom Garcia dropped in the 11th round of a unanimous decision that dethroned Morales as WBC beltholder in March.
Malignaggi knows what it is like to rise in weight and to win in foreign territory, having dethroned the physically bigger, taller, harder-punching and previously unbeaten Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs) in front of Senchenko’s hometown fans at Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine, scoring a ninth-round technical knockout in April.
“He’s [Cano] at an age where you’re still growing and getting thicker and bigger, and I’m at an age where I’m not growing anymore. So he’s got a good frame, and I think obviously he’s a growing kid. He just turned 23,” said Malignaggi, a former IBF junior welterweight beltholder in just his fifth welterweight bout who has not lost since falling by 11th-round knockout to Amir Khan as a junior welterweight in May of 2010.
“So I don’t think moving up in weight is as much of a factor for him because at that age, your body is still filling out and maturing and growing. So I think, in the end, he would probably end up as a Welterweight anyway. But I’m not really thinking about ‘is it too early for him to be a welterweight or not.’ I’m thinking about ‘this is my rival, this is my opponent, and I’ve got to beat him.'”
Cano has won three straight fights — two of them by knockout — since, himself, being stopped by Morales in the 10th-round of his junior welterweight debut in September.
It had been within days of the fight that a 21-year-old, then-lightweight Cano received the call to face the then-34-year-old Morales, who was trying to become Mexico’s first four-division title-winner. Cano replaced the hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse, who had withdrawn earlier in the week with a viral infection.
At the time, Morales was 51-7 with 35 stoppage victories — numbers that reflected twice as many wins and more than double the number of knockouts for Cano.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I couldn’t refuse it,” said Cano, who was 22-0 with 17 KOs at the time. “I have grown up watching Erik Morales,” he said. “I know his strengths and his weaknesses.”
In July, however, Cano earned the WBA’s interim 140-pound belt with a seventh-round majority decision over previously unbeaten Johan Perez (15-1-1, 12 KOs).
During a recent conference call, Cano responded to questions from RingTV.com, expressing how his experience against Morales has prepared for the atmosphere he will encounter against Malignaggi.
“We’ve been working very hard in the gym preparing for this, obviously working on strengthening and conditioning to add the additional weight.
“But also with the sparring, the adequate sparring and mobility and movement so we can be breaking him down round by round as the fight goes on.
“We’ve been working on this for the last couple of months, but obviously it’s something that has to unfold on October 20th, the night of the fight.”
On whether he can employ a similar body attack against Malignaggi as he did in stopping Fidel Matorato Muniz two fights ago with a body shot:
“It’s fundamental in a fight to work to the body from the beginning, to break him down, as you mentioned, and not only to the body.
“We’re going to start from the first round not only with body work, we’re going to work very hard with a variety of punches so we can minimize Paulie and eventually take the win, and win the fight.”
On what he learned from Malignaggi’s most recent effort against Senchenko:
“But I want to remind you that I am a Mexican warrior and on October 20th I’m ready for war. If he wants to box, I’ll box.
“If he wants to go toe-to-toe I’m ready to go toe-to-toe. But one thing I do know is I’m going to win and take the title back to Mexico.”
On whether he can win a decision in Malignaggi’s home town or whether needs to score a knockout in order to be victorious before what will likely be fans partisan to the champion:
“No, I don’t want to pressure myself looking for one punch, looking for the knockout. I’m confident in the work that we’ve done, in the preparation that we’ve done, and I’m going to work round per round.
“One thing I’m for sure of is the work that we’ve put in, and I’m just going to go in there and do my best and know that my best is going to win the fight.”
Photo by Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org