LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Eddie Cook boxed for four rounds, then turned slugger and knocked out Israel Contreras at 1:37 of the fifth round Sunday night to win the World Boxing Association bantamweight championship.
Cook, a St. Louis native who lives in Las Vegas, improved 17-1 with 15 knockouts. He was ranked No. 9 by the WBA and received the title shot after Junior Jones pulled dout with a broken hand. Cook had been knocked out two fights ago last September by Dio Andujar. Contreras of Venezuela fell to 36-2 in the first defense of his title.
Cook, a left-hander, seemed to confuse the champion by circling for four rounds. He then staggered Contreras with a left lead, putting the champion back on the ropes. Cook charged in and landed a right hook to the chin that put Contreras on his knees in a neutral corner. Contreras got caught between the ropes and failed to beat referee Richard Steele's 10-count.
Contreras appeared to win the first two rounds as Cook surprisingly fought defensively. The challenger picked up the pace in the third round and caught Contreras with a good right just before the bell. Cook found the range in the fourth round by following lefts to the body with rights to the head.
Cook, 25, was world-ranked despite getting knocked out two by Andujar last Sept. 20. Cook was down four times before losing in the fourth round of that fight. He came back to stop Lee Cargle in five rounds Dec. 26.
Contraras, 31, won the championship by stopping Luisito Espina in five rounds last Oct. 19 in Manila. He lost his first title fight in 1986 to great junior bantamweight champion Kaosai Galaxi on a fifth- round knockout. He held the lightly regarded World Boxing Organization bantamweight title from 1989 until last year.
On the undercard, former amatuer world champion Jorge Gonzalez of Cuba improved to 7-0 with seven knockouts as a pro by stopping Michael Gans of Long Beach, Calif., in the sixth round of a scheduled six- rounder. Gans fell to 11-8-1.