Jose Zepeda rolls to first-round TKO victory over Josue Vargas

Jose Zepeda stops Josue Vargas early with flurry of punches in Round 1 (1:06)

Jose Zepeda wins his fight early with a incredible onslaught of punches on Josue Vargas in the first round of their bout. (1:06)

A weigh-in fracas on Friday led to the New York State Athletic Commission barring Jose Zepeda's brother Rene from his corner. As it turns out, Zepeda never had the opportunity to go back to his corner anyway.

Zepeda eviscerated Josue Vargas, a 23-year-old prospect, with a first-round TKO on Saturday at New York's Hulu Theater at MSG in an ESPN+ main event.

Zepeda (35-2, 27 KOs) dropped Vargas with a crisp overhand left less than two minutes into the fight. Vargas made it to his feet on unsteady legs, and Zepeda quickly pounced. A barrage of punches met their mark in the corner on a defenseless Vargas, forcing the referee to stop the bout at 1:45 of the opening round.

"I told him in the press conference -- 'There's levels to this,'" Zepeda said. "He was the one who wanted to fight me. I just accepted the fight, and it showed today that boxing is not a game in there. There's levels to this."

Zepeda, a 32-year-old native of Long Beach, California, scored a brutal fifth-round KO of former champion Ivan Baranchyk last October in the Boxing Writer Association of America's 2020 fight of the year. Zepeda hopes to grab a third crack at a title after two previous attempts to attain championship status.

He dropped a controversial defeat to Jose Ramirez in a 2019 title fight at 140 pounds. His other loss came in another title bid, a lightweight bout with Terry Flanagan. In that 2015 fight, Zepeda retired following the second round after suffering a dislocated shoulder.

Now, after a string of notable wins, ESPN's No. 5 boxer at 140 pounds seemed ready for a third title shot.

"I'm in my prime," he said. "I want the WBC world title and all the belts, to be honest. I'm ready for it."

Vargas, meanwhile, finds himself further than ever from his first title shot. Zepeda was his first truly world-class opponent, and Vargas proved he couldn't hang on that level -- at least not yet.

"He caught me with a good left hand, and I tried to recover, but I think I got up too fast. That's what happened," Vargas (19-2, 9 KOs) said. "Overall, I'm OK. I'm good. I'm healthy. We're not stopping from here. It's on to the next."

Vargas added: "I learned from my disqualification loss, and now I learned from my second loss. It's part of the sport. The greatest athletes in boxing have losses. I'm not ashamed of myself. I'll be back stronger, for sure."