LAS VEGAS -- Featherweight titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko dazzled once again, easily dominating Gamalier Rodriguez en route to a ninth-round knockout to retain his belt in one of the featured bouts on the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao undercard on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Lomachenko, a 27-year-old southpaw, retained his title for the second time as he put on a clinic. He outboxed and outpunched Rodriguez, who could not handle Lomachenko's speed -- hand and foot -- movement and angles.
"I was just boxing for the fans, having a good time out there," Lomachenko said through a translator.
By the third round, Lomachenko was in total control, nailing Rodriguez with quick punches in combination before Rodriguez could do anything to defend himself. And when Rodriguez threw back, Lomachenko (4-1, 2 KOs), a 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist for Ukraine, was gone.
In the fifth round, referee Robert Byrd docked one point from Rodriguez for a low blow, putting him in an even deeper hole. Rodriguez continued to throw low blows in the sixth round, prompting Lomachenko to retaliate with one of his own and also to complain to Byrd.
In the seventh round, Lomachenko forced Rodriguez to take a knee when he nailed him with a combination to the head and body. Byrd took another point from Rodriguez (25-3-3, 17 KOs), 28, of Puerto Rico, for yet another low blow, this one a bad right hand to the groin, in the eighth round.
In the ninth round, Lomachenko, who signed a five-year contract extension with promoter Top Rank on Thursday, landed a clean right hook to the head and Rodriguez went down to a knee, where he took the Byrd's full count at 50 seconds.
"First couple of rounds I was feeling him and out to see what he had to offer," Lomachenko said.
Top Rank hopes to match Lomachenko later this year in a title unification fight with Nicholas Walters, who is slated to make a title defense on June 13 against an opponent to be determined.
"I agree that I have to fight someone [elite]," Lomachenko said. "I realize to get there I have to beat some of the champions to earn that spot. I want to fight anyone in my division who has a title belt."
The CompuBox punch statistics show how lopsided the fight was. Lomachenko landed 227 of 586 punches (39 percent) and Rodriguez connected on just 55 of 285 (19 percent).
Santa Cruz routs Cayetano
Junior featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KOs), moving up in weight to test the waters at featherweight, battered Jose Cayetano (17-4, 8 KOs) of Mexico en route to a shutout decision win.
All three judges had it 100-90 for Santa Cruz, who won by using Cayetano for what amounted to target practice against his third soft-touch opponent in a row. Cayetano, who took the fight on only about a week's notice, had no chance and had nothing at all except for his heart.
Santa Cruz, 26, a native of Mexico living in Rosemead, California, hurt him in the first round and rained numerous punches on him throughout the bout. He finished the bout by rocking Cayetano with a hard left hook to the chin. Cayetano has lost two fights in a row and three of his past five bouts.
Although Santa Cruz has yet to fight a top 122-pounder in a strong division that includes champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and titleholders Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, he said he moved up to the 126-pound weight class to see how he feels at the weight. He said he is looking for a fight with former three-division titleholder Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KOs) for an all-Mexican battle.
"I want Mares. The fans want it," Santa Cruz said.
• Junior middleweight prospect Chris Pearson (12-0, 9 KOs) rolled to a hard-fought but lopsided decision against Said El Harrak (12-3-2, 7 KOs). Pearson, one of the top prospects in the Mayweather Promotions stable, won on scores of 99-91, 99-91 and 98-92. Pearson, a 24-year-old southpaw from Dayton, Ohio, was quicker and more technically sound than El Harrak, 27, born in England and living in Henderson, Nevada, who pressured him throughout the fight. Pearson, 24, suffered a cut over his right eye in the fourth round.
• Philadelphia super middleweight prospect Jesse Hart (17-0, 14 KOs) pounded Chicago's Mike Jimenez (17-1, 11 KOs) in a strong performance on his way to a sixth-round knockout victory in their scheduled 10-round bout. Hart appeared much stronger than Jimenez, 27, and took it to him from the outset. In the sixth round, Hart, 25, the son of 1970s middleweight contender Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, was tagging Jimenez with unanswered blows and referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop it at 2 minutes, 13 seconds. Hart is expected back in action in July on a truTV-televised card.
"My trainer, the legendary Fred Jenkins, and my dad, Cyclone Hart, had me working on counterpunching and body work for this fight," Hart said. "We knew we were in tough tonight against Mike Jimenez but we got the job done."
• Welterweight Brad Solomon (25-0, 9 KOs) eked out a split decision against Adrian Rene Granados (13-4-2, 9 KOs) in a tougher-than-expected fight. Solomon, 31, of Lafayette, Louisiana, won 96-94 on two scorecards, while Granados got the 96-94 on one card. Solomon dominated the first several rounds by moving and outboxing Granados, but Granados, 25, of Chicago, came on in the second half of the fight. He pressured Solomon and had him in trouble in the 10th round just before the bell ended the fight.
• Cruiserweight Andrew Tabiti (9-0, 9 KOs) had his bout against Anthony Caputo Smith (15-4, 10 KOs) canceled shortly before the ring walks because Caputo Smith had high blood pressure when examined by the commission doctor.