LAS VEGAS -- Yuriorkis Gamboa, out of the ring for 15 months, made a successful comeback on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, even though he got knocked down.
Fighting in the co-featured bout on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV card, Gamboa survived a ninth-round knockdown -- and scored two of his own -- to unanimously outpoint Michael Farenas of the Philippines and win a vacant interim junior lightweight title.
The judges favored the faster and more explosive Gamboa by scores of 118-108, 117-109, 117-108. ESPN.com also had it for Gamboa, 118-107.
"I haven't fought for a long time," Gamboa said through a translator. "I needed the rounds. I thought I fought a good fight and entertained the crowd."
Gamboa, a former unified featherweight titleholder, was moving up in weight and fighting for the first time since a dominant eighth-round technical decision win against Daniel Ponce De Leon in September 2011.
His career then stalled after a falling out with promoter Top Rank. His contract was eventually bought by rapper 50 Cent -- real name Curtis Jackson -- who dropped from the ceiling attached to cables while rapping on Saturday as Gamboa walked to the ring in a surreal scene.
Jackson, after his falling out with Floyd Mayweather Jr. to promote fights together, cut a deal with Top Rank's Bob Arum to have Gamboa, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist, on the card.
Even given the layoff, Gamboa, who turns 31 later this month, looked fairly sharp and faster and more powerful than Farenas, 28, of the Philippines.
"That was a real good fight," Jackson said.
In the second round, Farenas wobbled Gamboa with a straight left that was perhaps a wake-up call, because after that, Gamboa began to attack. He landed several clean shots and then dropped Farenas with a right hand late in the round.
In the third round, Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs) opened cuts on the side of both of Farenas' eyes. Gamboa was dominating, but Farenas showed immense toughness. Gamboa scored another knockdown in the seventh, landing a stiff straight right hand that forced Farenas to touch his glove to the canvas.
In the ninth round, Gamboa was battering Farenas and looked like he might be on the verge of a stoppage when Farenas suddenly landed a left hand and dropped Gamboa to a knee. Gamboa was OK, but it brought the crowd alive.
After the knockdown, Gamboa, who suffered a cut near his left eye late in the fight, fought the rest of the fight quite cautiously, going the distance and winning handily on the scorecards.
"I thought it was a really close fight," Farenas said. "I thought I fought very well against one of the best fighters in the world."
Farenas (33-4-4, 26 KOs) saw his eight-fight winning streak come to an end and came up short in a title bout for the second consecutive fight. In July, he challenged Takashi Uchiyama for a world title in Japan, but the fight ended in a three-round technical draw after Uchiyama suffered a bad cut from an accidental head-butt and was unable to continue.
Vazquez routs Gesta
Miguel Angel Vazquez (33-3, 13 KOs) of Mexico easily retained his lightweight world title for the fifth time, scoring a landslide decision win against San Diego-based Filipino Mercito Gesta (26-1-1, 14 KOs) in a fight that was frustrating to watch and elicited booing from the crowd.
Vazquez won 119-109, 118-110, 117-111 in a snoozer. ESPN.com had it for Vazquez by shutout, 120-108. Vazquez is effective but doesn't make crowd-pleasing fights, and he was at it again against Gesta. He spent long chunks of the fight circling and picking his shots one at a time.
"The game plan was to box and keep him on the outside," Vazquez said. "It worked perfectly."
Gesta couldn't get inside to do what he wanted, which was to try to rough up Vazquez. It led to plenty of booing from the crowd.
"He's awkward," Gesta said. "I never got a rhythm going in the fight."
• Featherweight Javier Fortuna (21-0, 15 KOs) handily outpointed Patrick Hyland (27-1, 12 KOs) in a scrappy fight to win a vacant interim title.
The fight drew boos from the crowd for its uneven action, but Fortuna kept up a steady pace of punches while Ireland's Hyland -- who is promoted by "Jersey Shore" star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi -- wasn't able to do much with his much faster opponent.
Fortuna won 118-110, 116-112 and a surprisingly close 115-113. ESPN.com scored it for Fortuna, 119-109.
"I thought I would get a pretty easy knockout, but I underestimated Hyland and it turned out to be a more difficult fight than I thought it would be," Fortuna said through a translator.
Fortuna, a 23-year-old from the Dominican Republic, is a southpaw whose style resembles that of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, his stablemate. Fortuna likes to mimic Martinez by carrying his hands low and also leans in with his head, using his quickness to avoid punches.
Unable to deal with Fortuna's quick hands, Hyland tried to make it a street fight. He was warned for low blows in the third round. In the ninth round, he threw Fortuna to the canvas and easily could have been docked a point by referee Russell Mora. Fortuna tweaked his right shoulder when he was thrown down. Later in the round, Hyland doubled over Fortuna with a low blow that he earned a warning for.
Fortuna wound up with a cut over his left eye in the ninth and Hyland's nose, having eaten a lot of clean straight left hands, was bleeding in the 10th.
"It was a good scrap," Hyland said. "He didn't hit as hard as everyone said he would hit me and he kept running the last few rounds. People were making him out to be the next best thing, but he is still a kid and he needs to mature a little bit."
Fortuna, one of boxing's top prospects, had been very impressive in his other two 2012 fights, a first-round destruction of previously undefeated Yuandale Evans in April and a second-round stoppage of former featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz.