LAS VEGAS -- Sporting plenty of new tattoo ink and armed with his newfound sobriety, former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik returned to the ring for the first time in 13 months and won a majority decision over Alfonso Lopez on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The bout was one of the featured contests on the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley undercard, a high-profile spot for Pavlik to make his return.
Although the 29-year-old Pavlik looked quite rusty, that was to be expected. The Youngstown, Ohio, man was fighting for the first time since losing the middleweight title to Sergio Martinez by bloody decision in April 2010. Pavlik's problem with alcohol became worse after that and, after a family intervention, he went to alcohol rehabilitation. He spent two months there -- his second stint -- before coming out in January with an apparent commitment to sobriety and his career.
Two judges scored the bout 99-91 while the third judge had it 95-95.
"The ring rust sure showed, but I know I won the fight," Pavlik said. "I don't know what happened with that one scorecard [from Adalaide Byrd]. I felt I did pretty good. The ring rust showed."
Said trainer Jack Loew: "There were two wins tonight. The first win was Kelly walking up the steps and getting in the ring. The second win was winning the fight."
Pavlik plans to campaign in the 168-pound super middleweight division now and this fight was at 170 pounds. There was not a lot of clean punching as Pavlik and Lopez spent long stretches grappling on the inside.
Pavlik, however, did land some solid right hands, including a bone-crunching one in the sixth round that seemed to hurt Lopez, 28, of Cut and Shoot, Texas, who was facing his first name opponent.
Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs), who says he has not had a drink since Nov. 1 or Nov. 2, did pick up some steam in the final round, hurting Lopez (21-1, 16 KOs) with another right hand and rattling him with several other shots. The crowd was getting excited for a knockout, but Lopez was able to survive the final 30 seconds, despite being in trouble.
"I started feeling his power in the later rounds, but I think I deserved the draw," Lopez said. "I think I connected with a lot more shots than he did."
So with his comeback out of the way, Pavlik will look for a bigger fight. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has designs on an eventual fight between Pavlik and popular Montreal-based super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute.
Bute's promoter, Jean Bedard of InterBox, had a fighter on the undercard and has a developing relationship with Top Rank and said that was a possible fight for Bute in the fall, should Bute win a July 9 fight that is in the works.
Arce captures junior featherweight title
Mexican star Jorge Arce (57-6-2, 44 KOs) survived an early knockdown to come back and stop Puerto Rico's Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in the 12th round of an action-packed fight.
With the crowd roaring, Arce pounced on Vazquez in the 12th round and was rocking him repeatedly with hard shots. Vazquez was against the ropes and his head was being snapped all over the place, but referee Joe Cortez allowed the punishment to continue until Tutico Zabala Jr., Vazquez's co-promoter and one of his cornermen, threw a water bottle into the ring and then came into the ring himself to rescue the hurt fighter at 55 seconds.
The victory made Arce a three-division world titleholder -- he also won belts at junior flyweight and junior bantamweight (as well as an interim title at flyweight).
Arce, 31, had also badly hurt Vazquez, the son of the former three-division titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Sr., in the 11th round and had him reeling.
Vazquez, 26, was making third defense and looked like he would navigate Arce's pressure. Just as the bell ending the fourth sounded, Vazquez connected with a flush left hook to the jaw that floored a surprised Arce and crowd. He bounced back up, took the mandatory count and then had the minute rest period to try to recover.
Vazquez (20-1-1, 17 KOs) did not press the issue in the fifth round, letting Arce, who was cut over his left eye, off the hook. He had recovered from the knockdown to make the rest of the fight highly competitive, including a lengthy stretch in the seventh round when they stood in close range and traded shots along the ropes.
•In the first bout of the pay-per-view telecast, Denver junior welterweight Mike Alvarado (30-0, 22 KOs) dominated Ray Narh (25-2, 21 KOs) of Ghana through three rounds, but had not done significant damage. However, Narh quit on his stool after the third round.
Narh said he thought he ate something bad Friday, when he was vomiting and had diarrhea. Alvarado, 30, had landed some strong jabs and right hands and Narh said he did not have the strength to continue fighting.
Narh, 32, had not lost since a first-round knockout in the same MGM Grand ring against Almazbek Raiymkulov in 2004.
•Flyweight Rodel Mayol (28-5-2, 21 KOs), 29, of the Philippines, won a spirited majority decision against Mexico's Javier Gallo (17-4-1, 9 KOs) in his second bout since losing his junior flyweight title.
Mayol and Gallo engaged throughout a fight, although Mayol seemed to get the better of the action. He won 98-92 on two scorecards while the third judge had it 95-95.
Mayol won a 108-pound title in 2009 by stopping Edgar Sosa in the second round and then fought to a draw in his first title defense against Omar Nino before losing to Nino in an immediate rematch last June.
•Phoenix junior welterweight Jose Benavidez (11-0, 10 KOs), who is just 18 but also one of Top Rank's most heralded prospects, hammered James Hope (6-8-1, 4 KOs) throughout the fight until referee Vic Drakulich intervened after Hope had absorbed too much punishment at 1 minute, 43 seconds of the fifth round of their scheduled six-rounder. Benavidez did a lot of damage working Hope to the body.
•Junior welterweight prospect Pier Oliver Cote (16-0, 11 KOs), 26, of Canada looked outstanding in a dominant fourth-round knockout of Aris Ambriz (15-2-1, 8 KOs). Cote, with a flashy style and fast hands, took it Ambriz, of Azusa, Calif., throughout the fight. Cote dropped him to the seat of his pants in the second round and stopped him at 46 seconds of the fourth round when referee Tony Weeks stepped in after an accumulation of punches.
•Lightweight Karl Dargan (9-0, 4 KOs) took a lopsided unanimous decision against Randy Arrellin (8-5, 4 KOs) of Albuquerque, N.M., in the first fight of the night. Dargan, 25, of Philadelphia, was a standout amateur and is trained by Naazim Richardson, his cousin, who is also Mosley's trainer.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.