Amir Khan lands a right hand to Carlos Molina's face during their WBC… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Amir Khan plainly was not the hometown fighter Saturday, but his impressive speed and pinpoint jabs in a superb display of boxing won him some deep local appreciation.
Khan's rapid-fire assault against previously unbeaten Carlos Molina of Norwalk forced Molina's corner to stop the bout after 10 rounds, blood streaming from near their fighter's left eye after he'd spent the evening being beaten to the punch.
For England's Khan (27-3, 19 knockouts), the victory in front of 6,109 at the Sports Arena represented some long-awaited redemption after two consecutive losses and his decision to fire famed trainer Freddie Roach and replace him with Virgil Hunter.
An increased reliance on his boxing skill, and a determination to accentuate defensive withdrawals when necessary and pepper his opponent with speedy punches, paid off richly for Khan. He out-landed Molina in punches, 312-87, and won all 10 rounds on each of the three judges' scorecards.
"I stuck to my game plan and that meant I stuck to my jab," Khan said. "I'm getting better at boxing, being a complete fighter."
Punch stats showed he landed 156 jabs to Molina's 19, and Khan relied on that punch to continually frustrate Molina (17-1-1) in the junior-welterweight bout.
"I wanted to pull the trigger, but for some reason I couldn't let my hands go," Molina said. "He was fast with his jab. I was hesitant because of his long reach."
Khan entered the arena desperate for a win. On the heels of consecutive losses — a controversial split-decision to hometown fighter Lamont Peterson in Washington, D.C., last December, and a stunning fourth-round technical knockout defeat against Danny Garcia in July — he was eager to adhere to a strategy of avoiding unwise engagement, retreating from trouble and hitting with quick combinations.
Khan's performance leaves him positioned for a rematch with Garcia, although he might fight again before that, perhaps against Riverside's Josesito Lopez in April at Staples Center.
"I'm my own biggest critic, I looked at the things I did wrong in my losses," Khan said.
The Sports Arena card also saw heavyweight Deontay Wilder and middleweight Alfredo Angulo win using fight plans that were as subtle as a punch in the face.
Wilder improved to 26-0 with 26 knockouts by striding across the ring in the third round and unleashing a massive right hand to the left side of Kelvin Price's chin, a wicked knockout that brought the crowd to its feet.
"I know when fans come to see the heavyweights they come to see knockouts," Wilder said. "I didn't know when it was going to come, but when it came, bam!"
Angulo, the Mexican fighter who endured a lengthy stay in an Imperial County immigration detention center earlier this year, slugged out his frustration in an entertaining test of chins Saturday, winning a middleweight decision over brawler Jorge Silva.
Judges awarded Angulo (22-2) a unanimous decision, 97-93, on all three scorecards in a bout where each man dismissed defense and was repeatedly hammered.
"I asked for a fight that would make me work, because I wanted to see where I was after taking [time] off," Angulo said.
Earlier, in a bout that marked the return of boxing to network television after more than 15 years, Leo Santa Cruz, in his fifth fight of the year and third in four months, successfully defended his International Boxing Federation bantamweight title for the third time, winning a 116-112, 118-110, 119-109 unanimous decision over Mexico's Alberto Guevara. Santa Cruz (23-0-1) had won 11 of his previous 12 fights by knockout.