LAS VEGAS — Stevie Johnston's run of title defenses ended when he fought on the Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley undercard three years ago. On Saturday, his hopes of regaining the belt were dealt a probable conclusion.
Juan Lazcano (33-2-1, 25 knockouts), a hard-punching challenger from Sacramento who unleashed more than 100 punches in one round, won his 19th consecutive bout by twice knocking down Johnston (35-3-1, 17) in the 11th round.
After the second knockdown, George Durbin, Johnston's corner man, stepped into the ring, stopping the fight.
"It was the right time," Johnston, 30, said in his MGM Grand Garden Arena locker room.
While the future of the former two-time World Boxing Council lightweight champion was left considerably dimmed, Lazcano's victory in the WBC lightweight elimination bout leaves him positioned to fight the winner of the Nov. 1 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Phillip N'Dou title fight.
There is expectation that the undefeated champion Mayweather will jump out of the weight class to seek more high-profile opponents.
But Lazcano, who declined a reported $1-million offer last year to fight Mayweather with less than a month's preparation time, said he would provide an intriguing matchup.
"Now, the million is right there," Lazcano said.
In another title eliminator, Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico punished Demetrio Ceballos of Panama with left-handed punches. Cotto (17-0, 14) opened a gash over Ceballos' right eye and won by technical knockout in the seventh round when a corner man for Ceballos (26-5, 18) waved his towel.
The victory gives the 22-year-old Cotto, considered a rising star in promoter Bob Arum's Top Rank stable, his first major title shot, a World Boxing Assn. super-lightweight fight next year against champion Vivian Harris.