Sean Monaghan punches Matthew Vanda during their WBC Continental Americas...

Sean Monaghan punches Matthew Vanda during their WBC Continental Americas Light Heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Garden. (Jan. 25, 2014) Credit: Getty Images

There was uncertainty surrounding light heavyweight boxer Sean Monaghan.

It was early December and the Long Beach native had no idea whom he was going to be fighting in his next bout at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

All the fuss over whom Monaghan would fight didn't matter in the end Saturday night as Matt Vanda, secured as an opponent only five weeks ago, suffered a left biceps injury, forcing referee Earl Brown to halt the bout at 2:51 of the first round.

Monaghan improved to 20-0 with the TKO of Vanda (45-16). It was Monaghan's sixth win at MSG, the first since a unanimous-decision win over Roger Cantrell on Jan. 19, 2013.

It wasn't quite the way Monaghan wanted things to turn out.

"I do believe he had a real injury," Monaghan said. "The fight was going my way anyway. I was going to knock him out. I was way stronger than him."

Monaghan's trainer, Joe Higgins, agreed with his fighter.

"I did see the shot to the arm. But quite frankly I think it was a body shot that took the life out of him," Higgins said. "But what are you going to do? Sean wanted to treat his friends to a clean knockout. It looked like it was going to go that way anyhow."

Monaghan originally was scheduled to fight Fabio Garrido, but the talented Brazilian, a former South American champion, could not get a visa in time.

Then it was Aaron Pryor Jr. But Pryor, after initially accepting the offer, backed out.

Monaghan began texting names to his promoters at Top Rank, which sent Monaghan a list of about eight fighters -- all of whom eventually turned him down.

Monaghan and Top Rank eventually decided on Vanda. The switch to the 5-10 Vanda forced Monaghan to adjust his training as Garrido (6-1) and Pryor (6-4) are taller fighters.

"I do like to know who I'm fighting just to get ready, but we're ready for any kind of style," Monaghan said.

Now it's on to the next challenge.

Said Monaghan: "I'm No. 6 in the IBF rankings and I want to see them put me in there with someone people don't think I can beat. Show me the money. I'm looking to get a title shot sometime soon."

For now, Monaghan will enjoy getting another win at his favorite venue in his home state. He said he sold nearly 800 tickets to family and friends.

"This is my sixth time fighting here and I feel completely at home," Monaghan said. "I never have a worry here."

In the main event, Mikey Garcia (34-0) defended his WBO junior lightweight championship against Juan Carlos Burgos (30-2-2), scoring a unanimous-decision victory. Burgos showed little resistance as Garcia won on the scorecards 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109.

In the co-main event, Philadelphia heavyweight Bryant Jennings improved his record to 18-0 with a 10th-round TKO of Poland's Artur Szpilka (16-1). It was a dominant performance for Jennings, who scored a sixth-round knockdown and was ahead 88-82 on all scorecards after nine rounds.

More boxing news

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months