William Zepeda overcame a stiff challenge from a former titlist in his deepest fight to date.

The unbeaten lightweight contender went ten full rounds for the first time in his career, overpowering a determined Rene Alvarado to take a well-earned, unanimous decision victory. Scores of 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94 all landed in favor of Zepeda in a terrific lightweight battle Saturday evening on DAZN from Toyota Arena in Ontario, California.

Alvarado was moving up in weight and suffered three straight defeats entering the bout as a big underdog versus the heavy-handed Zepeda. The faded former secondary WBA junior lightweight titlist held his own in a competitive opening round, outworking Zepeda with crisp jabs and straight right hands. Zepeda—a streaking knockout artist from San Mateo Atenco, Mexico—connected with a right hook and a left hand late in the round.

Zepeda—who scored 15 straight knockouts into Saturday—opened up his attack in round two, though Alvarado was still the busier fighter and preferring to stay in the pocket and trade. Both fighters had their moments but Zepeda landed the far more telling blows, including a right hook that clearly got Alvarado’s attention.

Two-way action continued in round three. Zepeda was growing stronger with each exchange, while Alvarado tried in vain to make the unbeaten Mexican respect his power and work rate. It didn’t take, as Zepeda cracked Alvarado with a right hook early in the round and a head-snapping straight left hand in the final minute.

Alvarado refused to wilt, timing Zepeda throughout rounds four and five. Zepeda was loading up on every punch, with Alvarado showing a sturdy chin and coming back with straight right hands and left hooks. Zepeda concentrated on the body in a furiously paced round five, with Alvarado showing signs of slowing down but still in search of counter opportunities including a left hook to Zepeda’s liver.

Zepeda neglected the body in round six, throwing heavy leather upstairs and freezing Alvarado in his tracks with a right hook. Alvarado regained his composure and proceeded to go punch-for-punch with the younger, fresher Zepeda. A left hand by Zepeda drove Alvarado to the ropes, followed by a flurry of punches. Alvarado landed a combination near the end of the round.

Alvarado was too brave for his own good in round seven, standing directly in front of Zepeda who connected with a right hook. The shot set up a volley of punches which forced Alvarado to stagger and not throw back for the first time in the fight. Zepeda—who’d only fought once before beyond the sixth round—settled down in the final minute, offering head movement on the inside as he slipped right hands and responded with straight lefts.

Zepeda fought through a bloodied lip in round eight, throwing every punch with knockout intentions. Alvarado was driven to the ropes, where he fended off right hooks and straight lefts and responded with combination punching. Zepeda rocked Alvarado with a right hook in the final minute, continuing to come forward against an undentable foe.

Neither fighter left anything to chance in the tenth and final round of a terrific firefight. Alvarado remained the busier fighter, working his combinations in between heavy left hands from Zepeda. Alvarado attempted to use his jab to keep Zepeda in range for an ensuing right hand but was unable to keep the unbeaten Mexican at bay. Zepeda slammed home a left hand to buckle Alvarado in the closing seconds of the fight.

Alvarado has now lost four in a row in falling to 32-12 (21KOs), having gone 0-3 in a 2021 campaign that saw his secondary WBA title reign end without a successful title defense. The 33-year-old Nicaraguan was dominated in his previous outing, a ten-round points loss to former title challenger Lamont Roach last December.

Zepeda remains unbeaten as he advances to 26-0 (23KOs). The distance fight ends a 15-fight knockout streak as he goes to the scorecards for the first time since March 2017 but very much remains in the hunt as a lightweight contender.

Headlining the show, former WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez (43-0, 29KOs) faces Germany’s Dominic Boesel (32-2, 12KOs) in a scheduled twelve-round light heavyweight title eliminator. The winner will become the mandatory challenger to current WBA light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11KOs).

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox