Mickey Bey finally got his first chance to fight for a title, and he didn’t waste it.
The 31-year-old from Las Vegas took the International Boxing Federation lightweight title from Miguel Vazquez on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden, winning a 12-round split decision in a lackluster fight.
Judge Julie Lederman of New York had Bey ahead 115-113, and Adalaide Byrd of Las Vegas had Vazquez ahead 115-113. Robert Hoyle of Las Vegas scored it 119-109 for Bey, who improved to 21-1-1.
The fight was part of the Showtime Pay Per View undercard of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana welterweight title rematch.
“I wasn’t going to let this slip away,” Bey said. “Now I’m No. 1 in the division.”
Vazquez (34-4) lost for the first time since July 2007, when he was outpointed by Timothy Bradley.
“I thought it was very close,” he said. “It was a a good fight, and he was strong. But I still thought I won.”
Vazquez suffered a cut high on his hairline above his right eye late in the third round from a clash of heads and suffered a bloody nose in the fourth. But he never let it become a factor by staying away from Bey.
But Bey continued to pursue Vazquez, and as awkward and defensive-minded as Vazquez was, Bey still managed to work inside and land enough effective blows to win the fight. He won three of the final five rounds on all three scorecards.
He also hurt his right hand during the fight, though he didn’t know exactly when.
“He was head-butting and holding the entire fight,” Bey said. “I felt like I won every round, and I beat him with one arm.”
Bey’s career had survived a rough stretch, but he said he never lost faith. During that time, he refused to fight after being removed from the TV portion of a card, tested positive for an abnormally high testosterone level that resulted in a three-month suspension and lost a fight in the 10th round that he had all but won.
“I always believed,” he said. “Now I’m the world champion, and it feels great!”
In the other world title belt on the undercard, Leo Santa Cruz scored a technical knockout over Manuel Roman in the second round to retain his World Boxing Council super bantamweight title.
Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 knockouts) knocked Roman down with a hard right behind his ear, and referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight 55 seconds into the round as a wobbly Roman (17-3-3) struggled to get back on his feet.
“I did my job,” Santa Cruz said. “I gave the fans what they came to see — a knockout.”
Also on the undercard, James De La Rosa won a 10-round unanimous decision (99-89, 98-90, 96-92) over Alfredo Angulo to improve to 23-2. Angulo (22-5) looked slow most of the fight, but he rocked De La Rosa in the ninth and 10th rounds, hurting him each time.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.