Brandon Rios, left, and Urbano Antillon pose face to face after their weigh… (Tom Casino / Showtime )
Brandon Rios loves to fight, and when he found a willing participant Saturday night in Urbano Antillon, the world lightweight champion from Oxnard happily went about his business.
Producing a display of toughness and sturdy boxing, Rios knocked down Maywood's Antillon twice in the third round and then was awarded a technical knockout by referee David Mendoza at the 2:49 mark when a very woozy Antillon staggered into the ropes without being hit.
In his first defense of the World Boxing Assn. belt he won in February, the 24-year-old Rios (28-0-1, 20 knockouts) engaged in a classic first round in which Antillon (28-3) failed to yield to a diet of hard left hooks, right uppercuts and straight lefts. The toe-to-toe battle brought the Home Depot Center crowd to its feet.
"I said before the fight would come down to the guy who could take the punch best," Rios said.
After another entertaining round, Rios pronounced, "I was that guy. I'm stronger and younger."
He first decked Antillon 20 seconds into the third round with a hard left hook to the top of the head that Antillon trainer Abel Sanchez said "did all the damage … the rest was an accumulation of punches."
Antillon bounced on his feet trying to find his balance, but Rios then delivered a hard overhand right that dropped Antillon to the canvas head first. Antillon tried to hug Rios when he stood, but referee Mendoza separated the pair and Antillon then stumbled to the ropes, causing Mendoza to stop the bout.
"I have power in both hands," Rios said.
Afterward, Rios' promoter Bob Arum pronounced the obvious, that the young champion is "a rising star," who can opt to clean out the lightweight division, head up to the loaded 140-pound division or follow the path that Arum has: "In a year or two, I'll put him in there with Manny Pacquiao."
The main event was preceded by the return of former world welterweight champion Kermit Cintron to the Home Depot Center, where in his most recent bout (May 2010), he memorably fell out of the ring during a fourth-round exchange with Paul Williams and failed to climb back in.
Cintron, 31, showed the effects of the long layoff, continually getting beaten to the punch by Chicago's Carlos Molina, 28, who won a unanimous decision by 98-92 scores on all three judges' cards in the super-welterweight bout.
Molina (19-4-2) subjected Cintron (32-4-1) to a steady barrage of rights to the head.
Fans sitting ringside on the east part of the stadium might have felt a bit antsy as Molina's punishment grew most intense. It was on that side that Cintron fell through the ropes versus Williams, and his failure to get up -- he lost by technical decision -- was remembered by the crowd who didn't hesitate to boo his entry Saturday.
In the eighth, a Molina combination caused Cintron to back up toward the east ropes and when Cintron briefly sat on the bottom rope going backward, a roar of "Oh! Oh!" could be heard by those fearing a repeat fall.
Cintron stayed up, but only to endure more pain, including a hard right to the ribs by Molina in the ninth and another set of combinations in the 10th.
"No excuses for what happened out there," Cintron's veteran trainer Ronnie Shields said afterward. "He couldn't get off."