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Tapia stops Soto in third

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LAS VEGAS — Johnny Tapia knocked out Cesar Soto with a left-right combination to the head in the third round of their featherweight bout Saturday night.

Tapia (50-2-2, 27 knockouts) had stunned Soto (53-10-3, 39 knockouts) with 30 seconds left in the third round with punishing body blows. Two left hands clearly hurt Soto, a former WBC featherweight champion, and then came the deciding combination.

Referee Joe Cortez counted out Soto as he sat in the ring holding his ribs.

"I just caught him with a good shot to the body," said Tapia, a four-time world champion. "I went to the body to see what he had down there and I caught him."

Soto, a 126-pounder from Juarez, Mexico, landed a left hook to Tapia's face in the second round and knocked him down. Tapia pleaded with the referee that it was not a knockdown, because Soto was standing on his foot.

It marked only the second time in Tapia's career he had been knocked down.

The 34-year-old Tapia, 126 pounds from Albuquerque, N.M., has his sights set on Prince Naseem Hamed.

In an earlier bout at the Mandalay Bay Resort, DeMarcus Corley (21-1-1, 13 knockouts) stopped Felix Flores (17-3, 13 knockouts) in the first round to win the vacant WBO junior welterweight title.

Corley took the fight on Monday after WBO 140-pound champion Ener Julio was forced to withdraw when cataracts were revealed during an eye exam. Julio was forced to vacate his title and Corley, the WBO's No. 10 contender, stepped in. Flores entered the fight as the WBO's No. 9-ranked contender.