LOS ANGELES — Israel Vazquez overcame a rocky start and a nasty cut in his comeback from a 19-month ring absence, stopping Angel Priolo on Saturday in the ninth round.
Vazquez (44-4, 30 knockouts) looked shaky in long stretches of his first bout since concluding his phenomenal rivalry with Rafael Marquez early last year. The former 122-pound world champion developed swelling around both eyes, and a 2-inch cut opened over his left eye in the sixth round.
But Vazquez persevered through the blood and eventually caught Priolo (30-8), a Colombian former title contender who has lost seven straight fights. Vazquez knocked down Priolo three times in the ninth, finally forcing the stoppage in the final minute.
“I was a little rusty, but I wanted to knock him out,” Vazquez said. “I was really hungry for the win. I’m a warrior, and I’ve been showing that all along in my career, and now I want the big fights again.”
Judges Raul Caiz Jr. and Jose Cobian had the featherweight bout even at 76 after the first eight rounds, and Fritz Werner had Vazquez up 78-74. The Associated Press also had it even at 76 before Vazquez’s decisive ninth.
Vazquez, a Mexican who lives in the Los Angeles area, hadn’t been in the ring since wrapping up his grueling rivalry with Marquez in March 2008 with a split-decision victory. Their three fights in 12 months were among boxing’s greatest trilogies of their generation, with every fight filled with knockdowns, momentum swings — and tremendous punishment for both fighters.
Vazquez won the last two fights but at a heavy cost. He underwent three operations to repair the damaged retina in his right eye, and the bouts’ physical toll required an extended rest just when he had reached the cusp of greater stardom.
Freddie Roach, Vazquez’s former trainer, had hoped Vazquez would retire after the punishment he took in the first fight alone, but Vazquez said he never seriously considered it. He abandoned his 122-pound title, moved to 126 and went back into training with Rudy Perez, who pledged to add better defense to Vazquez’s repertoire.
• LOPEZ, GAMBOA WIN — At New York, Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa remained on a potential collision course after defending their titles in separate bouts at Madison Square Garden.
Gamboa (16-0, 14 KOs) retained his WBA featherweight title with a brutally efficient fourth-round stoppage of Whyber Garcia (22-7), and Lopez (27-0, 24 KOs) gained a hard-fought unanimous decision against rugged Rogers Mtagwa (26-12-2) to keep his WBO super bantamweight belt.
• SALGADO-LINARES — At Tokyo, Juan Carlos Salgado of Mexico knocked out Jorge Linares of Venezuela in the first round to take the WBC super featherweight title.
Salgado sent Linares to the canvas with a left to the head 1 minute, 13 seconds into the bout at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.
Salgado, making his first attempt at a major title, improved to 22-0-1 with 16 KOs. Linares suffered his first loss in 28 professional bouts.