By Peter Lim, photo by Liz Kreutz
Juan Diaz stopped Fernando Garcia in the ninth round of the co-main event at the Arena Theatre on Saturday night.
Diaz (41-4, 20 KOs) outworked Garcia (30-8-2, 18 KOs) throughout the lightweight bout, using multi-punch flurries.
Garcia returned fire with gusto, but Diaz managed to dodge or deflect many of the blows with his gloves and arms.
Garcia took the initiative to become the aggressor in the middle rounds, but Diaz stood his ground and matched Garcia.
By the seventh round, Diaz had regained control, outlanding Garcia by three or four punches to one.
Diaz continued to dominate the exchanges in the late rounds, bouncing Garcia's head around like a speed bag with volleys of hooks and uppercuts.
A barrage of blows sent Garcia through the ropes for a knockdown in the ninth round. Diaz moved in and unloaded a series of unanswered punches, prompting referee Lawrence Cole to end the bout at 2:25 of the ninth round.
Diaz was coming off an 18-month layoff due to a left rotator cuff injury he suffered a year ago.
"I felt good, maybe a little bit of rust because of the inactivity, but I give myself a B+. I'm ready to fight again and become a world champion," Diaz said.
In the co-main event, former junior welterweight world titleholder Mike Alvarado (35-4, 23 KOs) stopped Saul Coral (19-7, 10 KOs) in the third round.
Coming off a 14-month layoff, Alvarado appeared sluggish and off-balance in the opening round before finding his range for his overhand right in the second round.
In the third round, Alvarado drove Coral into a corner with a series of rights before dropping him for the full count at the 1:25 mark.
"I was a little rusty in the first round so I had to dig deep," Alvarado said. "He's never fought anyone like me; it was new to him and after the first round I knew he was breaking down."
On the undercards, southpaw Esquiva Falcao (13-0, 9 KOs), a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, stopped Joe McCreedy (15-10-2, 6 KOs) at 1:48 of the fourth round in a middleweight bout. Falcao utilized his jab and sunk McCreedy for the full count with a left to the body.
Welterweight Arturo Marquez (1-0, 1 KO) of Houston made a successful pro debut stopping Justin Henderson (0-2) in the second round.
Marquez attacked from the outset, using his jab to set up fluid combinations.
A right uppercut dropped Henderson in the second round and a follow-up barrage prompted the referee to halt the fight at the 2:50 mark.
Marquez is the son of 1992 U.S. Olympian and former IBF junior middleweight titleholder Raul Marquez.
Lightweight Abel Mendoza (1-0) debuted with a four-round unanimous decision over Juan Muniz (0-2). Jesse Garcia (3-0, 3 KOs) of Houston survived a first round knockdown to stop southpaw Christopher Turton (1-2) in the second round of a super featherweight bout.