LAS VEGAS — Oscar De La Hoya, who said he's going to concentrate on boxing instead of singing, pounded out a steady beat on Arturo Gatti's head and body.
De La Hoya marked his return from a nine-month layoff with a fifth-round victory Saturday night.
It was a slugfest from start to finish, but De La Hoya had too much power for Gatti, knocking him down in the first round and stopping him at 1:16 of the fifth.
After De La Hoya landed a barrage of punishing head shots, Gatti's corner threw a towel into the ring and trainer Hector Rocha began to climb through the ropes. Then, referee Jay Nady signaled the end.
"I think he expects me to be an easy target," Gatti had said. And, although he fought bravely, a target is what he was.
Gatti shook De La Hoya with a big left hook early in the first round that brought a roar from a crowd of about 12,000 fans in the MGM Garden. With about 20 seconds left in the round, De La Hoya knocked Gatti down with a left hook, a right and another left hook to the head.
"I'm not even close to becoming as good as I can become," said the 28-year-old De La Hoya, who has held world titles in four weight classes. "This is just a start. I knew Gatti would be tough."
Gatti, who will be 28 on April 15, went toe to toe with De La Hoya, but De La Hoya was more accurate. He punished Gatti with a barrage of punches in the second round and cut him under the right eye. In the third round, De La Hoya ripped a cut over Gatti's right eye.
Gatti answered by cutting De La Hoya over the left eye early in the fifth round, but then De La Hoya took complete charge and ended the fight.
"I fought my heart out, that's all you can do," Gatti said.
"If I didn't stop it, he would have gotten killed in there because he wouldn't have stopped it himself," Roca said.
It was the first fight for De La Hoya since he lost the WBC welterweight title to Shane Mosely last June 17. De La Hoya, who weighed in at 147 pounds, improved to 35-2 with his 27th knockout.
Gatti, 146, a native of Montreal who lives in Jersey City, N.J., is 33-5 with 27 knockouts. Gatti is a former IBF junior lightweight champion.
In an IBF cruiserweight title fight, Vassily Jirov, 190, a native of Kazakstan who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., knocked out Terry McGroom, 190, of Little Rock, Ark., with a left hook to the body at 1:22 of the first round.
Jirov is 28-0 with 26 knockouts.
In a scheduled 10-round bout, Rafael Pineda of Colombia, a former IBF junior welterweight champion fighting for only the eighth time since 1996, scored an upset. Pineda, 147, knocked down Oba Carr, 149, of Detroit three times in the sixth round and stopped him with 14 seconds left in the round.
It was only Carr's fourth loss in 57 fights.