With all of the questions and so much of his prefight attention locked on a push for a rematch with Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras lost track of David Carmona's resilience.
So instead of claiming victory by the impressive knockout he so badly wanted, Cuadras settled Saturday night for a unanimous-decision triumph over fellow Mexican David Carmona in a super-flyweight bout at Madison Square Garden.
Judges awarded Cuadras (36-1-1) scores of 97-93, 97-93, 96-94 in the former World Boxing Council champion's first bout since his fight-of-the-year candidate defeat to Gonzalez in a competitive unanimous decision in September at the Forum.
The bout preceded the super-flyweight title defense by the unbeaten Gonzalez against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and the middleweight title fight between Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs.
Cuadras hammered Carmona (20-4-5) in the gut during the opening round and whipped him with a shot to the body in the second, throwing big right hands in the third to chase the knockout he wanted in his effort to confirm a Gonzalez rematch.
After delivering a combination to the body in the third with two later power punches to the head, Cuadras shimmied his hips to keep the crowd engaged in the action.
The animated fighter, who trains in Maywood, is a constant-smiling charmer. Friday, he came off the scales shadow boxing and said, "I am strong, I am fast and I am handsome," in English.
But his fight lacked such entertainment value. Cuadras threw a punch in the sixth with such force that when it missed, his body hurled three steps across the ring.
Carmona delivered a low blow in the seventh and Cuadras was shown with a slight cut above the left eye after the round, stunting his effort to record a decisive victory.
Cuadras had cracked that Gonzalez was "scared" of him by accepting the mandatory date against Sor Rungvisai, but that claim seemed hollow Saturday as Carmona didn't yield in the face of Cuadras' early pressure, winning a handful of late rounds.
Rising lightweight Ryan Martin of Cleveland underscored his talent by relying on his reach and skill advantages to land heavy punches on New York's Bryant Cruz and win by eighth-round technical knockout.
After spending five weeks working out in Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez's Big Bear gym, Martin (18-0, 11 KOs) backed up Cruz (17-2) with well-measured power blows in the third, caused Cruz to duck for cover with a counterpunch and hard hook in the fourth, then landed more hurtful straight rights in the fifth and sixth.
"He came out a little different than I expected so it took me a while to figure him out but I'm very happy with my performance," Martin said. "I want to be back in the ring as soon as possible, whenever my team tells me. I'm ready for a top-10 fighter in the lightweight division."
Referee Harvey Dock moved in to consider stopping the fight in the sixth, and again looked closely in the seventh before Cruz showed such little interest in answering a barrage in the eighth that Dock had no choice but stop it 45 seconds in.
"Training in Big Bear really paid off dividends with my conditioning," Martin said, adding he plans to fight again in June and train again in Big Bear.
Final punch statistics showed Martin outlanded Cruz, 233-129.
"I let him hit me too long in the last round," Cruz said. "He was matching my rhythm and countering everything I threw."
Middleweight Andy Lee of Ireland closed the pre-pay-per-view portion of the card by defeating KeAndrae Leatherwood by unanimous decision on scores of 80-72, 78-74, 79-73.