LANDOVER -- He entered the ring wearing a black mask, led by former heavyweight champs Michael Spinks and Joe Frazier as well as famed promoter Butch Lewis.
It was an unusual entrance for Bernard Hopkins, nicknamed "The Executioner," in that he dispensed with the two muscular, ax-wielding gentlemen who usually flank him as part of his entourage.
As it turned out, he didn't need them to defeat Segundo Mercado (18-3-1, 11 KOs) by technical knockout at 1:10 of Round 7 for the vacant International Boxing Federation middleweight championship last night at USAir Arena.
The bout was featured on the undercard of Vincent Pettway's successful IBF junior middleweight title defense against Simon Brown.
Hopkins and Mercado fought to a controversial draw Dec. 17 in Ecuador. But from start to finish in last night's rematch, Hopkins (27-2-1, 20 KOs) pounded Mercado -- whose hands were at his side as he was held up by the ropes when referee Rudy Battle signaled the end.
"I've been watching a lot of tapes of Mike Tyson, and I realize you've got to have the killer instincts like him," Hopkins said. "You've got to have the big right hands like him."
Hopkins stood up Mercado with a straight left to start the round, and punctuated it with just about any kind of right he wanted to -- crosses, overhand and straight.
"I wanted to get him out early, and the right hand was key tonight," Hopkins said.
Some thought the fight could have been stopped in the fifth, when Hopkins loaded up with both hands and landed punches at will. Mercado reeled from turnbuckle to turnbuckle. Sometimes, he fell into hard shots.
After the fight, Mercado protested the TKO, saying, "The ref made a mistake because I can recuperate better than him."
But Battle countered, "The only thing Mercado had to look forward to was hitting the canvas. He would have been seriously hurt if I'd have turned Bernard loose."
In the first round, Hopkins, who lost his last IBF title bid to Roy Jones Jr., moved in behind a steady jab. He added right, left, right combinations in the second as Mercado tried to counter to the body, then wobbled Mercado and bloodied his mouth with two left hooks in the third round.
Early in the fourth, Mercado avoided several shots with constant upper-body movement, but Hopkins began to get his rhythm, patiently landing straight rights. Mercado staggered to his corner after Hopkins hammered him into the ropes with a hard right, followed by a left.
The Hopkins fight was one of 11 on the undercard. The 7,052 in attendance cheered when former undisputed heavyweight champ Tyson was introduced as color commentator for the Showtime cable telecast of the fights.
Another Tyson -- U.S. Boxing Association junior welterweight champ Darryl Tyson (45-7-1) of Washington -- lost by technical knockout at 2:41 of round 10 to former IBF world champion Freddie Pendleton (38-20-1, 26 KOs).
The night's first fight featured former IBF welterweight champion Maurice Blocker (36-4, 20 KOs) of Washington, now a junior middleweight. Blocker stopped journeyman Bobby Butters (12-9-1, 4 KOs) with a blistering left hook at 2:40 of the fifth round. It was scheduled for 10.
In the second fight, welterweight Oba Carr (33-1, 21 KOs) dropped Alfredo Rojas (18-10-1, 16 KOs) in the second round, then overwhelmed the Venezuelan with a fierce body attack and forced him to quit after being knocked down a second time at 2:55 of the fifth.
Former WBA middleweight champion John David "Action" Jackson (33-1, 19 KOs) of Los Angeles floored James "Hard Rock" Green (22-9-1, 15 KOs) in the fourth round and won every round on all three cards of the eight-round bout.
Another Washington fighter, William Joppy (15 KOs), 24, used a rapier-like jab and superior boxing skills to earn a unanimous decision over hard-punching journeyman Joaquin Velazquez (20-10-1) of Newark, N.J.