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LAS VEGAS -- Erik Morales got what he wanted -- a title in a fourth weight division -- as he ground down untested 21-year-old Pablo Cesar Cano for a 10th-round knockout in a bloody fight Saturday night.
The bout was on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz undercard at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and provided plenty of action for the bloodthirsty.
|Erik Morales took his share of abuse, but he landed with more power and eventually wore down and bloodied Pablo Cesar Cano.|
With the victory, Morales claimed a vacant junior welterweight belt -- one that the WBC unceremoniously stripped from Timothy Bradley Jr. under a firestorm of criticism. Hollow belt or not, Morales, who was coming off a loss to Marcos Maidana in an April slugfest, has won 'em at junior featherweight, featherweight, junior lightweight and now welterweight. Morales is the first Mexican fighter to win full titles in four weight classes.
Cano, also of Mexico, had never faced any recognizable opponents but got the opportunity to face Morales on perhaps the biggest pay-per-view of the year on 10 days' notice. He jumped at the offer from Golden Boy Promotions after Lucas Matthysse of Argentina dropped out because of a viral infection that left him dehydrated and unable to train.
The feeling of many was that the Mexico-based WBC was simply trying to hand Morales another title. But at least he had to work for it in the fifth fight of a comeback that began in March 2010 after he had retired in mid-2007.
"I was ready to fight Lucas Matthysse, but circumstances happen, so I fought Pablo," Morales said. "I'm really happy about the fourth world title, but it was more difficult than I thought it would be. He came to give his all, but once I got my pace, I dominated him because of my experience."
It was a typical Mexican-versus-Mexican fight -- a lot of action and hard punching. Cano stung Morales with a combination in the second round, got rocked with a right hand in the fifth round, and back and forth they went.
In the fifth round, Cano, with a cut by his left eye, wobbled Morales with a right hand, but Morales rebounded and they were brawling as the round came to an end.
They were both landing flush shots, and Cano (22-1-1, 17 KOs) connected with a right hand in the seventh round that opened a cut over Morales' left eye. It seemed to bother Morales, who dabbed at the cut as the round wore on. By the eighth round, Morales' white trunks had turned pink from the blood both of them had spilled.
But Morales (52-7, 36 KOs) continued to push forward, and Cano's face was falling apart. His eyes and nose were swelling and he was cut. In the 10th round, Morales landed a series of nasty right hands and referee Kenny Bayless called timeout to have Cano's wounds examined.
The fight was allowed to continue and Morales landed several more hard shots as blood flew out of Cano's face. His corner was on the verge of stopping the fight, but the round came to an end and it was called off after the 10th round.
"He's a young fighter and he throws really hard punches," Morales said. "It took me some time to get my rhythm, but I did and was the better fighter. I could tell that the blood was making him nervous and once he started bleeding profusely, he was a little scared and it affected him."
Morales, 35, landed 21 of 33 power shots in the 10th round to close the show.
"I'm a little upset because, obviously, I didn't win, but I went in there on last-minute notice and did what I had to do," Cano said. "I fought a legendary fighter and hopefully now the world knows who Pablo Cesar Cano is. The cut definitely affected me. I think I would have finished the 12 rounds had I not been cut."
In the first fight of the HBO PPV broadcast, junior welterweight Jessie Vargas of Las Vegas, who fights in the Mayweather camp, won a split decision against Josesito Lopez of Riverside, Calif., in a result booed by Vargas' hometown crowd. Press row predominantly scored it for Lopez.
"I think it was a good 10-round decision," Vargas said. "He is one helluva fighter; nothing but respect for him. I was surprised he could take the power of my punches. I think I fell into his game plan and away from mine, but my corner straightened it out toward the end."
Vargas got the decision despite being battered for long stretches and also having a point deducted in the eighth round for a low blow. But he did throw many more punches than Lopez.
CompuBox credited Vargas with landing 167 of 851 punches (20 percent), while Lopez landed 122 of 509 (24 percent).
Vargas (17-0, 9 KOs) started well, but Lopez (29-4, 17 KOs) began to take it to him in the third round. He opened a cut over his right eye in the sixth round and just appeared to be the physically stronger man. Vargas had landed several low blows, but landed a bad one in the eighth round, a left to the groin that floored Lopez. Referee Tony Weeks docked a point from Vargas for the foul.
They closed with a 10th round filled with exciting toe-to-toe exchanges, and both raised their hands in victory when the final bell sounded. But it was Vargas who got the decision. Two judges scored it Vargas, 96-93 and 95-94. One judge had it for Lopez, 96-93.
• Oklahoma City welterweight Carson Jones (32-8-2, 22 KOs) scored a fourth-round knockdown and a seventh-round TKO against Las Vegas' Said Oulali (28-4, 20 KOs), a native of Morocco, who is trained by Roger Mayweather. Jones' punches were taking their toll, and he was winning when the fight stopped at the end of the round on the advice of the ringside doctor.
• Canadian super middleweight Adonis Stevenson (15-1, 12 KOs) scored a knockdown and then hammered Dion Savage (10-2, 6 KOs) of Flint, Mich., into a first-round TKO at 1 minute, 57 seconds. After Savage survived the knockdown, Stevenson battered him with both hands and had him trapped in a corner before referee Tony Weeks called it off. Stevenson is next scheduled to appear Oct. 15 in Los Angeles on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson undercard, according to promoter Yvon Michel, who is working with Golden Boy.
• British lightweight Anthony Crolla (22-2, 9 KOs), a Ricky Hatton protégé, won an eight-round split decision against Mexico's Juan Manuel Montiel (6-5-3, 1 KO).
Crolla, the quicker, more refined fighter, seemed to pound on Montiel throughout the fight, although one judge scored it 77-75 for Montiel. The other two judges had it for Crolla, 78-74 and 77-75. In the fifth round, Crolla opened a cut over Montiel's right eye, which bled down his face for the rest of the fight. Crolla was originally supposed to fight Morales on the pay-per-view portion of the card, but Golden Boy changed its mind and made a different fight for Morales.
• Junior lightweight Kyrone Butler rolled to a shutout four-round decision against fellow Las Vegas fighter Cassius Clay in a battle of pro debuters.
• In the first fight of the card, super middleweight prospect Marco Antonio Periban (15-0, 10 KOs) of Mexico rolled to a unanimous eight-round decision -- 80-72, 79-73, 79-73 -- against Dhafir Smith (24-21-7, 4 KOs) of Upper Derby, Pa. Smith lost his third fight in a row since his upset decision against former titlist Jeff Lacy in last December.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.