Amir Khan took the first step towards regaining a world title with a stoppage win over previously unbeaten Carlos Molina in a fight he had admitted was "make or break" following two devastating defeats.
After watching Khan batter Molina for most of the fight, referee Jack Reiss halted the bout following the 10th round as Molina's cornermen asked him to end the lopsided contest.
"You could see the way I was fighting, more patiently," Khan said afterwards.
"At times he did catch me. I just composed myself, stuck with the game plan, stayed with it and kept my composure."
A week after his 26th birthday, Khan dominated with superior handspeed and was seldom tested in improving to 27-3 with his 19th early stoppage and first victory since stopping Zab Judah in July of last year.
Molina, meanwhile, was unbeaten - with 17 wins and a draw - but also untested, having campaigned mainly at the lower lightweight division.
Khan was stopped in the fourth round last July by American Danny Garcia in a showdown for two world titles after a controversial loss to US fighter Lamont Peterson last December.
Garcia, who watched from ringside, will defend his world titles against compatriot Judah in February. But Khan hopes for a rematch with Garcia after that.
"I'm ready for Danny Garcia anywhere, any time, any place," Khan said. "He was lucky. He caught me with a good shot."
Khan opened a cut over the left eye of Molina in the opening seconds and the Englishman pressed the attack against his smaller rival with jabs and quick combinations.
After trading punches, Khan would walk to reposition himself for his next attack, a patient strategy instilled upon him by new trainer Virgil Hunter, who Khan began working with eight weeks ago after dumping Manny Pacquiao cornerman Freddie Roach.
"He's teaching me how to understand boxing," Khan said. "If I'm using my speed properly, there's nobody in the world who can beat me.
"I get too ballsy for my own good. But now with Virgil I'm sticking behind that jab and staying patient."
Even Molina was arguably still in with a puncher's chance but after another round of one-way traffic in the 10th, the American was spared further futile punishment and the win was Khan's.
"I caught him with some good shots and he kept coming," Khan said.
"I thought 'I had better stick to my game plan because this kid is tough.'"
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