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Erik Morales to face Lucas Matthysse

Mexican star Erik Morales, the former three-division champion, will face powerful Lucas Matthysse of Argentina on the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz HBO PPV undercard Sept. 17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, promoter Golden Boy announced Wednesday.

Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) was originally supposed to face England's Anthony Crolla, a Ricky Hatton-promoted fighter, but Golden Boy suddenly dropped him without explanation and replaced him with faded former junior lightweight titlist Jorge Barrios, also of Argentina.

However, Barrios, who has had a slew of legal issues, was denied a visa and replaced by Matthysse, who is a significant upgrade in opponent over Crolla and Barrios.

Although Matthysse (28-2, 26 KOs) has lost two of his last three bouts -- both on HBO -- each defeat came on a questionable split decision.

In November, he dropped Zab Judah in the 10th round and had him on the run in the late rounds but lost the decision on Judah's turf in Newark, N.J. After an easy eighth-round TKO of former titlist DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley in Argentina in January, Matthysse, 28, returned to the United States and dropped former titlist Devon Alexander in the fourth round in St. Charles, Mo., where Alexander lives, and lost another split verdict.

"I cannot wait to get in the ring and fight Erik Morales," Matthysse said. "I will do anything and everything I can to walk away from this fight as a world champion. I will work harder because I don't want to pass up this magnificent opportunity."

Morales, 34, has long been a fan favorite and is surefire Hall of Famer. He had been considered washed up by many until reviving his career in April with a thrilling majority decision loss to highly regarded Marcos Maidana, another slugger from Argentina.

Despite coming off a loss, Morales is facing Matthysse for a vacant 140-pound title. Last week, the Mexico-based WBC stripped it from Timothy Bradley Jr. for no apparent reason other than to give Morales -- a favorite of WBC president Jose Sulaiman -- an opportunity to become the first Mexican fighter to win a belt in four weight classes. The Bradley camp is considering legal action over the move, Bradley manager Cameron Dunkin said.

Morales-Matthysse will take place on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day, when there is usually a major fight card featuring Mexican stars.

"This fight is the chance of a lifetime," Morales said. "I have waited for this moment my entire career. To have the opportunity to win world titles in four weight divisions on Mexican Independence Day (weekend) and on a night like this is a dream come true. I am going to train harder than ever to make the Mexican people proud and to be victorious on Sept. 17."

Golden Boy also formally announced that junior welterweight prospect Jessie Vargas (16-0, 9 KOs), a Mayweather protege from Las Vegas, will open the telecast in a 10-rounder against Josesito Lopez (29-3, 17 KOs).

"I know I will be ready to show the world that all of my hard work and preparation has led to this opportunity," Vargas said. "I am so excited to be a part of this event and I look forward to beating Lopez and keeping my undefeated record."

Vargas scored a highlight-reel second-round knockout against veteran Walter Estrada in his last bout on July 8. Lopez is on a seven-fight winning streak, including a seventh-round knockout of previously undefeated prospect Mike Dallas Jr. in January.

"I am very excited to be a part of this event and to show the world that I am a force to be reckoned with in the ring," Lopez said. "I haven't lost a fight in over three years and I don't plan on losing this one. Jessie Vargas might be undefeated now, but he won't be after Sept. 17."

The pay-per-view will take place at two sites. Besides the Las Vegas portion of the show -- which will include the Mayweather-Ortiz welterweight title bout, Morales-Matthysse and Vargas-Lopez -- junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (37-0-1, 27 KOs) will make his second defense against former "Contender" star Alfonso Gomez (23-4-2, 12 KOs) at the Staples Center.

After two live pay-per-view fights from the MGM Grand, the telecast will shift to Staples Center for Alvarez-Gomez before returning to Las Vegas for Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) to challenge Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs).

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.