ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In an eye-opening performance, Ryan Garcia stopped Francisco Fonseca in the first round of their lightweight bout with a blazing counter left hook that left his foe flat on the canvas Friday night at the Honda Center.
Referee Raul Caiz Sr. counted out Fonseca at 1 minute, 20 seconds.
It was a dazzling display of reflexes, timing and power, as Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) caught Fonseca (25-3-2, 19 KOs) with a flush shot he never saw coming.
"It was good," Garcia said of the knockout punch. "[The fight] didn't last that long, but I watched a video of Sugar Ray Robinson, and he did this little feint and threw the perfect left hook. I saw it and went for the left hook. Thought I was going to go longer, not going to lie. I respect Fonseca and thank him for the opportunity."
For Garcia, a 21-year-old who was ESPN's 2017 prospect of the year, it was another step in his development as a fighter and a box-office attraction. Friday night's card played to an announced crowd of 10,310.
Garcia has shown steady improvement under the direction of trainer Eddy Reynoso, best known for developing Canelo Alvarez into one of the best boxers in the world.
Fonseca, 25, came into the contest as the seasoned veteran, with two of his three losses coming to the likes of Tevin Farmer and Gervonta Davis in world title fights.
But he was never blown out in this fashion. Garcia didn't just win, he made a statement.
The victory could set up a possible fight with former three-division world titlist Jorge Linares in a classic crossroads matchup pitting a young rising star versus a seasoned, proud former champion.
"I'm 21, I'm a late bloomer," Garcia said. "I'm ready for everyone, and I'm comfortable. I'm ready to go after everyone. I'm turned up. Let's go."
Linares stops Morales in fourth round
In the co-feature, former three-division world titlist Jorge Linares (47-5, 29 KOs) showed he still has something left in the tank, dispatching Carlos Morales (19-5-4, 8 KOs) in four rounds.
After flooring Morales at the end of the third with a short right hand, Linares sent him to the canvas again in the fourth, with Morales being counted out at 2:09. It's the first time Morales has been stopped in his career.
After getting cut early in the fight, Linares took control, flashing his trademark hand speed and uncoiling sharp left hooks and right hands.
It was just last January that Linares -- who has won world titles at 126, 130 and 135 pounds -- made an ill-advised attempt to move up to junior welterweight and was knocked out by Pablo Cesar Cano in one round. Now, back in his natural habitat at 135, Linares still looks to be a formidable foe, even at age 34.
"I surprised myself, but I can demonstrate even more that. I wanted to see if I could capture in a fourth weight class. He caught me, I was off balance, but now I'm back at 135 pounds," Linares said. "The best thing I could have done is go back home to Japan and train with Mr. [Akihiko] Honda. I'm at the best moment in my career right now."
Regarding a potential showdown with Garcia, Linares said he is more than ready.
"I'm ready for the best at 135," he said. "I'm ready for Ryan Garcia, and then we will see what happens."
Rocha grinds out unanimous decision win
In a welterweight contest that was closer than the scorecards indicated, Alexis Rocha kept his perfect record intact by pounding out a 10-round decision over the veteran Brad Solomon.
The judges scored it 100-89, 99-90 and 97-92 in favor of Rocha.
"It was pretty close," Rocha said. "I wasn't putting too much pressure. I have to put more effort in the gym. I give Brad much respect. He's a well-seasoned guy. I knew coming into the fight it was going to be hard. I knew I wasn't going to just blow him out. I knew he was going to come in prepared, and he's right off a training camp so I knew he would come prepared."
Rocha, a southpaw from nearby Santa Ana, California, was the heavier puncher of the two. Throughout the night he consistently went downstairs on Solomon (28-3, 9 KOs), who for the most part was able to withstand the body attack much of the fight.
Solomon was able to keep Rocha (16-0, 10 KOs) at bay with an array of fast overhand rights, which were delivered as he kept his right hand near his waist. While it was clear that Rocha was the stronger fighter, it was Solomon who held the edge in speed.
In the 10th round, Rocha floored Solomon with a series of shots, capped by several right hooks to the body. But to his credit, Solomon not only beat the count, he clipped an oncoming Rocha with counter right hands. The crowd rose to its feet as both boxers battled to the end.
"I knew it was going to be a close fight," Rocha said. "Needed to give it all I got, but I threw a combo and got him down. I need to put on more pressure, be more relaxed, hit the body, listen to my coach and be more calm."
Cobbs edges out Kotey in split decision
Welterweight Blair Cobbs (14-0, 9 KOs) remained undefeated by taking a 10-round split decision over Samuel Kotey (23-3, 16 KOs) in a fight that had only sporadic pockets of action.
Two judges scored it 96-93 for Cobbs, and the third judge had it 95-94 for Kotey.
"It was good a performance," Cobbs said. "I boxed really good, and I have to hand it to him, he had a hell of chin. I'd hit him, and he kept coming. He's a wonderful fighter. Good turnout, and he had a tough chin."
Cobbs, a flamboyant southpaw from Las Vegas, for much of the fight circled the ring and boxed from the outside, whereas Kotey marched forward methodically.
While he pressed the action, Kotey was never able to mount a consistent attack. Cobbs, though effective, was hardly entertaining, and by the early rounds boos could be heard from the audience inside the Honda Center.
Regardless, Cobbs was generally satisfied with his outing.
"I'm practicing and getting better every time," he said. "I'm trying to be more patient, settle down, get a couple shots to the body and head. Good performance and good boxing technique. I'm landing shots inside, outside, and landing more punches.
"I'm ready for anything, working really hard and progressing little by little. I come and I conquer. Give me the boos, and give me the woos."