By Jake Donovan
Even as the evening's main event, Jorge Paez Jr's bout carried far less significance than the chief support between Zolani Tete and Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. The aftermath helped even things out in a big way.
Paez Jr. celebrated his 26th birthday with a 7th round stoppage win over Colombia's Ivan Hernandez in their TV Azteca-televised headliner Saturday evening in Mexicali, Mexico.
The win itself didn't upstage Tete's upset knockout win over Sanchez Jr. in their 115 lb. title eliminator. What left people abuzz, however, as Paez Jr. accepting an in-ring challenge from former four-division titlist Erik Morales to square off as early as next March in Mexico.
It took for Paez Jr. to overcome a sluggish start to put himself in position for such a future event. Hernandez boxed well in the early going, arguably deserving to take the first two rounds on the scorecards. It wasn't until round three when the crowd favorite finally discovered his swagger.
From there, the bout wasn't terribly competitive.
The end came in round seven, when a crushing uppercut put Hernandez down and out on the canvas, resulting in his second straight knockout loss since returning to the ring earlier this year.
Paez Jr. picks up his 10th straight win as he improves to 37-4-1 (22KO). What truly kicked off the birthday celebration, however, was what occurred during the post-fight interview. the winner was met in the ring by Morales, who sought the services of the second-generation fighter as his opponent for a planned farewell fight in Mexico.
The offer was graciously accepted by Paez Jr., with the fight tentatively scheduled for March 2014.
Morales (52-9, 36KO) hasn't fought since Oct. '12, when he was hit with double jeopardy. The Mexican superstar suffered a 4th round knockout loss to Danny Garcia in their title fight rematch, which was permitted to happen despite Morales repeatedly testing positive for banned substances during pre-fight random drug testing before finally providing a clean sample late into Fight Week.
The loss came eight months after his one-and-done stay as a 140 lb. titlist, losing his belt to Garcia earlier in the year. While the reign didn't last very long, the fact that he won the belt (regardless of the circumstances in which it was made available) produced a historic moment for his proud nation, becoming the first Mexican fighter to win a major title in four weight classes.
Morales also held championships at super bantamweight, featherweight and super featherweight. Prior to June 2012, he was the last fighter to claim a win over Manny Pacquiao, who went on a seven-year tear following their furiously-paced March '05 affair. Included among Pacquiao's run was a pair of stoppage wins over Morales in 2006.
The 13 months (and counting) spent away from the ring were in part due to Morales serving a suspension imposed for the drug testing follies during the rematch with Garcia.
The downtime was also spent planning a more fitting exit from the sport for the 37-year old; a showdown with Paez Jr., still a household name in his native Mexico, provides a worthy farewell party, as well as a potentially competitive fight.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox