TEMECULA, Calif. - Three days before his fight against Ricardo Mayorga, Vernon Forrest sat in his hotel suite and declared himself the best welterweight in the world.
He wasn't nervous or frightened by Mayorga's unorthodox, yet powerful style. He wasn't intimidated by Mayorga's confidence. He said he prepared for everything Mayorga possibly could throw at him.
He didn't prepare himself to lose.
Scoring a huge upset, Mayorga - a 7-to-1 underdog - put Forrest on the canvas near the end of the first round and then finished the job in third, connecting with a straight right hand to knock Forrest out and win the WBC welterweight title Saturday night at Pechanga Casino and Resort.
After the right rocked Forrest against the ropes, his legs buckled and Mayorga pushed a left into his face to put him on the ground.
Forrest rose by the count of five, but his legs were rubbery and referee Marty Denkin stopped the bout 2:06 into the round.
For Forrest (35-1), it was the first loss of his professional career, and for Mayorga (23-3-1, 21 knockouts), who already owned the WBA belt, the fight should shoot him into superstardom.
"He was hitting me, but I was fighting a clown," Mayorga said through a translator. "I hit him with the right, and I knew he'd be going down. Then I hit him with a left to get him out of the ring."
Before the fight, few observers gave him a chance against Forrest, who was coming off back-to-back wins against Shane Mosley.
Mayorga, though, told everyone who would listen that he would stop Forrest by the seventh round.
"When you fight a guy who's wild, you have to make him respect you," Forrest said. "I went out early. I wanted to show him I could box, fight and bang. I got caught, but I thought they stopped the fight too early."
The match got off to an entertaining start, as Atlanta duo Archie rapped the song, We Ready, as Forrest smiled and danced his way down the aisle to the ring. To show his confidence, Mayorga ran to the ropes and attempted to open them so Forrest could enter.
Although Forrest, an Augusta native, appeared to win much of the first round, Mayorga touched him with a glove, and Forrest fell to the canvas near the conclusion. The shot didn't appear to be particularly strong, and replays showed Forrest, who protested to Denkin that it was a slip, might have been off-balance.
Forrest recovered in the second - a hugely exciting round - and though the two traded power combos for most of the 3 minutes, he appeared to win the round.
But, Forrest didn't do much in the third and Mayorga took advantage, landing clean shots before he caught Forrest with the huge punch.
Forrest connected on 35 percent of his punches - including 49 percent of his power shots - while Mayorga landed 26 and 33 percent, respectively.
"In my contract, I have a rematch clause," Forrest said. "I want an immediate rematch."
In the televised undercard, Joel Casamayor, still recovering from a heartbreaking loss to Acelino Freitas a year ago, fought off a strong early-effort from lightweight contender Nate Campbell to score an easy unanimous-decision victory.
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216.
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