By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Juan Alejo took Angel Acosta’s punishing punches as long as he could Saturday night.
Eventually, though, the hard-hitting, aggressive Acosta overpowered Alejo and knocked him out in the 10th round to win the WBO’s vacant junior flyweight title on the Miguel Cotto-Sadam Ali undercard at Madison Square Garden.
Acosta, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, improved to 17-1 and produced his 17th knockout. Alejo, of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, slipped to 24-5-1.
The 27-year-old Acosta knocked out the first 16 opponents he faced as a pro, but Japan’s Kosei Tanaka (10-0, 6 KOs) beat him by unanimous decision in their fight for the WBO light flyweight title May 20 in Nagoya, Japan.
His victory over Alejo marked Acosta’s first fight since losing to Tanaka - who vacated the WBO title a few days ago as he announced a move up to the flyweight division.
A flush left hook by Acosta dropped a depleted Alejo to his gloves and knees with just over 1:40 to go in the 10th round. Alejo attempted to get up, but fell to the seat of his trunks and couldn’t quite beat referee Benjy Esteves’ count.
Esteves stopped the scheduled 12-round championship match at 1:33 of the 10th round.
Alejo was aggressive late in the ninth round, when he landed a right hand that made Acosta move away from him. A New York State Athletic Commission doctor examined Alejo before the start of the ninth round, before allowing him to continue.
A right uppercut by Acosta buzzed Alejo with 1:15 remaining in the eighth round.
Acosta attacked Alejo’s body with around 35 seconds to go in the seventh round. He landed a left hook to Alejo’s head that knocked Alejo backward about 15 seconds later.
Acosta trapped Alejo against the ropes with around 35 seconds left in the sixth round. He unleashed a flurry of punches, including a left hook that napped back Alejo’s head.
An aggressive Acosta trapped Ajelo in a neutral corner with about 1:15 to go in the fifth round and unloaded several head and body shots that landed flush. Alejo landed a left-right combination that backed Acosta into the ropes later in the fifth round.
Acosta knocked Alejo off balance by landing a left hook to his head with around 40 seconds remaining in the third round.
Acosta connected with three straight stiff jabs early in the third round. Alejo waved him forward, but clearly felt those punches.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.