Juan Manuel Lopez knocked out Steven Luevano in the seventh round last night, using a brutal left hook to claim the WBO title in the main event of a featherweight doubleheader at the Garden's WaMu Theater.
Earlier in the night, rising star Yuriorkis Gamboa defended his WBA belt with a sensational second-round knockout of rugged challenger Rogers Mtagwa.
Lopez (27-0) was taken the distance by Mtagwa in his last fight in October, one he was on the cusp of losing several times over the final rounds. The junior featherweight champion moved up to challenge Luevano and was simply overwhelming at 126 pounds.
He staggered the champion early in the seventh before finally trapping Luevano against the ropes, unleashing a combination capped by a flush left near the corner. Luevano staggered to his feet by the count of 10, but referee Benji Esteves wisely waved it off.
It was the first fight for Luevano since a disqualification victory against Bernabe Concepcion in August. Luevano was leading on the scorecards when the bell ended the seventh round and Concepcion didn't hear it, unintentionally blasting him with a left-right combination that sent him down and out.
Luevano (37-2-1), who defended his title five times, struggled to keep his distance against the hard-charging Lopez. He's a counterpuncher by nature and never had a chance to throw a counter, wilting under JuanMa's intense pressure.
The outcome certainly delighted a reunion of great Puerto Rican fighters. Former five-time champion Felix Trinidad drew the first big roar from a crowd of more than 5,000.