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Friday, September 9, 2011
Pablo Cesar Cano to fight Erik Morales

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Mexico's Pablo Cesar Cano did not figure to be back in the ring for at least a couple of more months after knocking out Pablo Lugo in the seventh round on June 25.

But that was until a wholly unexpected offer came from his promoter, Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer.

Schaefer offered Cano the opportunity of a lifetime -- to fill in for the ill Lucas Matthysse and face Mexican legend and three-division champion Erik Morales for a vacant junior welterweight belt on next Saturday's Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz HBO PPV card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Cano jumped at the offer, and now Morales has an opponent to face on the major pay-per-view card. Argentina's Matthysse (28-2, 26 KOs), a top contender, dropped out on Wednesday night because of a viral infection that dehydrated him and kept him for training for the fight.

Golden Boy's matchmakers spent much of Thursday and Friday trying to secure a replacement, ultimately going down the WBC's ratings and getting to Cano, their fighter and the leading available contender.

"When Matthysse dropped out we looked at who the available contenders were and we wanted to still put on an exciting fight," Schaefer told ESPN on Friday night, just after the deal had been completed. "Matthysse against Morales would have been toe-to-toe action. We all know that. With Pablo Cesar Cano I know it will also be toe-to-toe action. And the rivalry between Mexico City (Cano) and Tijuana (Morales) continues."

Schaefer said there was another intriguing element to the match "to add even more oil to the flames."

It turns out that the 21-year-old Cano (22-0-1, 17 KOs) is trained by Rudy Perez, who trained another Mexican star, Marco Antonio Barrera, for his all-time classic trilogy with Morales.

"Rudy Perez is excited about the opportunity. Cano is thrilled," Schaefer said. "Rudy Perez told me has exactly the recipe to beat Morales. He's done it before in (two of the three) Barrera fights. They are all fired up for this opportunity. Cano just fought a couple of months ago and he is in great shape and ready go. They really jumped on this."

Schaefer said Morales (51-7, 35 KOs), 35, also accepted the fight immediately.

"He said, 'I don't care, just sign him up,'" Schaefer said. "He said, 'I don't care who I fight. Bring me King Kong.' I know this is going to be an exciting fight. It was easy to get made and I'll bet anyone it will be an exciting fight. When you have two Mexicans fighting each other -- on Mexican Independence Day weekend -- for a world title, I don't think you see too many boring fights. These guys really want it."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.