INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Cruiserweight world titleholder Oleksandr Usyk hoped to catch the attention of the American audience in his United States debut, and although he retained his belt, he did not exactly impress.
Fighting on the Bernard Hopkins-Joe Smith Jr. undercard on Saturday night at The Forum, Usyk dropped fellow southpaw Thabiso "The Rock" Mchunu three times en route to a ninth-round knockout victory that featured very little action despite the knockdowns.
Nonetheless, Usyk retained his 200-pound world title for the first time since going to Poland in September and winning a unanimous decision against hometown fighter Krzysztof Glowacki to take his world title and set a division record.
By winning the belt in only his 10th professional fight, Usyk, the 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist for Ukraine, broke the division record for fewest fights needed to win a world title, surpassing the mark held by Evander Holyfield, who won a cruiserweight world title in his 12th fight by outpointing Hall of Famer Dwight Muhammad Qawi in an epic 15-rounder in 1986.
"I get to take my belt back home, and I got to do it with my fellow Ukrainians in the crowd," Usyk said. "We were hoping to get the knockout earlier, but we got it and we're looking forward to bringing more fights to this cruiserweight division."
The fight got off to a painfully slow start with neither fighter throwing many punches. They stared, feinted and occasionally threw one shot at a time, prompting the crowd to boo before the second round had ended. The fight meandered that way for the next few rounds until the 29-year-old Usyk (11-0, 10 KOs) got a bit busier in the fifth round and began to land combinations.
In the sixth round he picked it up even more and seemed to have 28-year-old Mchunu (17-3, 11 KOs), of South Africa, in trouble with a series of power shots before knocking him down with a left uppercut.
When the round was over, Mchunu looked exhausted as he sat on his stool and spit a stream of blood into the bucket.
At that point of the fight, Usyk was firmly in control and attacking the shorter Mchunu with stiff jabs. Then he scored two knockdowns in the ninth round, both on left hands. After the second one, referee Lou Moret waved off the fight at 1 minute, 53 seconds.
"The styles didn't mesh, but any time you can get a knockout, you'll take it," said K2 Promotions Tom Loeffler, Usyk's promoter.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Usyk landed 163 of 517 blows (32 percent), and Mchunu, who had almost no power on his shots, landed 76 of 278 (27 percent).
"He got the better of me, and he used it against me," Mchunu said. "All I can say now is that we have to go back to square one."
Usyk's next fight could land on the HBO PPV undercard of the March 18 middleweight world title fight between Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs. The fight, which will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York, was announced earlier Saturday.
Diaz cruises past Garcia
Rising featherweight contender Joseph "JoJo" Diaz Jr., a 2012 U.S. Olympian, rolled to a shutout decision -- 100-90 on all three scorecards -- to retain his regional belt against Horacio "Violento" Garcia in a high-contact fight.
Diaz (23-0, 13 KOs), 23, of South El Monte, California, was quicker and appeared to be the heavier hitter as he attacked Garcia to the body and with uppercuts throughout the fight. Garcia (30-2-1, 22 KOs), 26, of Mexico, took a lot of clean punches, as Garcia landed many more shots than him. According to CompuBox, he landed 266 of 629 blows (42 percent), while Garcia landed 116 of 690 (17 percent).
"I knew I was facing a tough, experienced opponent, so my plan was to go in there and get him using my jabs, angles and everything I worked on in my training camp," Diaz said. "I came in and got what I wanted and I'm very happy with the outcome."
Garcia's only previous loss came by 10-round decision to former three-division world titleholder Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan in 2015.
"It was a power versus speed fight," Garcia said. "For every power punch I would throw, he would throw two. I agree with the judge's decision, and we'll hit the gym to make the adjustments."
Diaz went 4-0 on the year and put himself in position for a possible title shot in 2017.
Middleweight Yamaguchi Falcao (12-0, 6 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw who won a 2012 Olympic bronze medal for Brazil, stopped Mexico's German Perez (10-3-3, 3 KOs) in just 27 seconds when he dropped him and Perez could not continue because of a twisted ankle.
Irish middleweight prospect Jason Quigley (12-0, 10 KOs) crushed chin-challenged Jorge Melendez (28-7-1, 26 KOs), of Puerto Rico. Quigley dropped Melendez three times in the first round and got the stoppage when the Melendez corner threw in the towel, as Quigley was teeing off on him along the ropes. Referee Gerald White stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 24 seconds.
"Me and [trainer] Manny Robles were ready to go all 10 rounds if necessary," Quigley said. "He wanted the knockout more than I did. [Melendez] was coming forward and risking heavy punches to his own detriment."
Lightweight Ryan Garcia (7-0, 6 KOs), an 18-year-old from Victorville, California, who recently signed with Golden Boy, stopped Mexico's Antonio Martinez (6-8, 5 KOs) at 2 minutes of the second round.
"I was a little nervous since this was my first timer as a Golden Boy Fighter," said Garcia, who was 215-15 as an amateur and a 15-time national champion. "I set him up perfectly for me to utilize my straight jab and found a way to maneuver his awkward style. I'm going to look back at the tape and just keep on improving."
Junior lightweight Carlos Morales (15-1-3, 6 KOs), of Los Angeles, eked out an unpopular split decision against Charles Huerta (18-5, 10 KOs), of Paramount, California. Two judges scored it for Morales, 96-93 and 95-94, and one had it for Huerta, 96-93, who knocked Morales down with a left hook in the eighth round.
"He was on his game, and it was a tough fight," Morales said. "I was caught completely off guard by his left hook, and I think that slowed me down, and the cut on my nose was a result of four hard rounds of boxing."
Lightweight Christian "Chimpa" Gonzalez (16-0, 14 KOs), from Buena Park, California, dropped Jonathan Perez (36-16, 28 KOs), of Miami, Florida, in the second round and knocked him out at 24 seconds of the third round.
"My plan was to go in to the ring and practice what I had worked on in the gym, which was working on my jab," Gonzalez said. "We knew we were facing an experienced opponent, and not much would surprise him, but my team and I trained hard on our plan, and I'm very happy to have taken the knockout."
Los Angeles lightweight Ivan Delgado (10-0-1, 3 KOs) knocked out Mexico's Roberto Rivera (6-4, 5 KOs) at 1 minute, 18 seconds of the sixth round.
"I feel great about my win," Delgado said. "I knew I had to keep at my opponent in order to secure the knockout. I went heavy on the offensive, and I hadn't studied my opponent much before, but I knew it wasn't going to be an easy fight. Next stop is a state title in 2017."
Featherweight Joet Gonzalez (15-0, 6 KOs), of Glendora, California, knocked out Mexico's Jairo Hernandez (15-11, 8 KOs) at 2 minutes, 40 seconds of the fourth round of a one-sided fight.
"I'm glad we got the stoppage in the fourth round." Gonzalez said. "I was expecting him to come forward more, and I think he was a bit cautious of my power blows. Overall, I'm satisfied with my performance tonight."