LAS VEGAS — With one nasty left hook, Jesus Rojas knocked out Claudio Marrero in the seventh round to win an interim featherweight world title Friday night in the main event of the “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” card at the Marquee Ballroom inside the MGM Grand.
It was an exciting fight on the eve of the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin bout that will take place on Saturday and Rojas and Marrero kicked off the weekend with a fan-friendly fight.
The slicker Marrero used his hand speed advantage early to throw quick combinations and move away while Rojas tried to bull forward and trap him on the ropes, but Rojas eventually go going.
In the fourth round, Rojas connected with a clean right hand as he charged forward but the action really picked up in the fifth round when Rojas hurt Marrero with a right hand to the head along the ropes and they began to trade with abandon for the rest of the round.
Rojas clipped Marrero with several hard right hands in the round, but Rojas then appeared to wobble him seconds before the round ended.
In the seventh round, as they were trading, Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) floored Marrero with a clean left hook. Marrero (22-2, 16 KOs) was on his knees, but he was unable to beat the count and referee Russell Mora counted him out at 2 minutes, 59 seconds. Rojas won despite complaints that Marrero twice bit his ears.
“I’m super happy that I got this new belt,” Rojas said. “I’m filled with a lot of joy. It’s been many years of sacrifice and a lot of fights that have been taken away from me. I promised my father I would win a world title, and even though he is no longer with us my promise is complete.”
Marrero was making the first defense of the interim 126-pound belt he won April 29, also in Las Vegas, when he scored a spectacular first-round knockout of Carlos Zambrano.
Rojas, 30, of Puerto Rico, moved to 13-0-2 in his last 15 fights since dropping an eight-round decision to Jose Angel Beranza in 2008.
Marrero, a 28-year-old southpaw from the Dominican Republic, saw an eight-fight winning streak come to an end.
Also on the card, Victorville, California, junior lightweight prospect Ryan Garcia (11-0, 10 KOs),19, looked sensational as he drilled Miguel Carrizoza (10-3, 2 KOs), 25, of Mexico, in just 30 seconds.
Moments into the fight, Garcia crushed Carrizoza with a clean right hand that sent him to the mat. Carrizoza beat the count, but as soon as the fight resumed, Garcia nailed with a clean left hook on the chin. Carrizoza’s eyes rolled up into his head, and he went down to one knee as referee Jay Nady immediately waved off the fight.
“I didn’t expect it. He’s never been knocked out,” Garcia said. “I expected some competitive work maybe. I thought I was going to wear him out, but I saw the opportunity and I attacked. [The punches were] about 80 percent leverage. I want to fight tomorrow. I want to fight every day.”