Brandon Rios stopped Urbano Antillon with 11 seconds left in the third round of an action-packed fight Saturday night, retaining his WBA lightweight title in dramatic fashion.
After two rounds of toe-to-toe slugging, Rios (28-0-1, 20 KOs) knocked down Antillon twice in the third. Rios landed a crushing left hook for the first knockdown, and an overhand right moments later sent Antillon face-first into the canvas.
Antillon unsteadily got back up, but referee David Mendoza stopped the bout moments later when Antillon (28-3) staggered toward his corner out of a clinch. Rios jumped onto the ropes to celebrate the biggest victory yet for a relentless brawler who could be a future opponent for Manny Pacquiao.
"I said this fight would come down to the guy who could take the punch best," Rios said. "I was that guy. I'm tough, and I'm younger. I've got power in both hands. I knew I was going to win because I'm younger and stronger."
Rios trains in Oxnard, Calif., while Antillon is from nearby Maywood. In a stadium full of fans supporting both Southern California fighters, Rios made a thrilling first defence of the title he won in February with a 10th-round stoppage of Miguel Acosta.
Although Antillon has established himself as one of the sport's most crowd-pleasing fighters in three title shots against Acosta, Humberto Soto and Rios, Antillon has lost all three bouts.
"I got caught," Antillon said. "Soto is a great champion who has good defensive skills. Rios is very strong. He's much stronger than Soto. I just got caught."
Rios and Antillon have traded verbal jabs for the past several months since their fight initially was announced and postponed, with the usual pre-fight antics growing into anger.
Antillon infuriated Rios with playful comments about Rios' wife, whose calming influence has contributed to Rios' rise from a troublemaking, jail-frequenting prospect from Garden City, Kan., into a lightweight champion based in sunny Ventura County.
"I took my anger toward him into the ring," Rios said. "I thought he might make it into the later rounds, but he didn't."
The fight was action-packed from the opening minute, with both fighters landing huge shots in the first round. The quick start surprised nobody, since both boxers have little interest in defence to go with their mutual dislike.
Antillon landed a majority of the big shots in the first round, but Rios did increasing damage in the second round before taking control in the third with that left hook to the top of Antillon's head.
Promoter Bob Arum said Rios could fight veteran Mexican champion Marco Antonio Barrera in his next bout. Rios named his son after Barrera, who attended the fight as an announcer.
On the undercard at Home Depot Center, former welterweight champion Kermit Cintron returned from a 14-month absence with a lopsided decision loss to Chicago 154-pounder Carlos Molina. Cintron (32-4-1) hadn't fought since he inexplicably tumbled through the ropes and out of this ring in a loss to Paul Williams last year.