LAS VEGAS -- Rocky Juarez couldn't win the title at junior lightweight, so now he hopes that Saturday night's victory against Jose Hernandez vaults him into a featherweight title shot.
Juarez, a featherweight since turning pro after receiving a 2000 Olympic silver medal, jumped up to 130 pounds last year, where he was twice beaten by Marco Antonio Barrera in bids for the title.
In his return to featherweight, Juarez unanimously outpointed Hernandez to set up a possible September shot against 126-pound titlist Chris John of Indonesia.
Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Juarez, is also involved with John, who would travel to the United States for the fight.
Juarez's victory came in the co-featured bout on the card headlined by the wildly anticipated junior middleweight fight between beltholder Oscar De La Hoya and pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The buzzing crowd saw Juarez (27-3) knock Hernandez (22-4) down with a thudding overhand right late in the second round to take control of the fight. He methodically outworked Hernandez, and hurt him in the 11th to briefly excite the crowd.
The judges had it 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112 for Juarez. ESPN.com had it 119-108 Juarez.
It was Juarez's second win in a row since the second loss to Barrera. Juarez gave Barrera all he could hand in their first encounter last spring before losing a controversial decision that had originally been ruled a draw before a tabulation error was discovered. They made a rematch right away and met again in September, but Barrera made adjustments and easily outpointed Juarez.
That promoted Juarez to drop back down in weight. He rebounded to win a tune-up at 128 pounds to set the stage for the fight with Hernandez.
Hernandez, a brawler from Mexico, secured the opportunity to fight on such a big stage with a miraculous comeback in December. After trailing prospect Jason Litzau badly in the eighth round, he rallied to score an improbable knockout.
In the other notable undercard bout, junior featherweight Rey Bautista (23-0) outpointed Argentina's Sergio Medina (28-1) in an action-packed title eliminator.
With the victory, Bautista earned a shot against 122-pound beltholder Daniel Ponce De Leon of Mexico.
All three judges had it for Bautista, 116-108 and 115-109 (twice). ESPN.com had it 114-111 for Bautista, a native of the Philippines hoping to follow in the footsteps of national hero Manny Pacquiao.
It was an action fight from the outset as Medina, 25, rocked Bautista with a right hand and follow-up flurry in the first round.
In the fifth round, Bautista was all over Medina, but his momentum was blunted when he caught him with a low blow. Referee Robert Byrd, who had already issued three warnings to Bautista, deducted a point.
Bautista made up for the deduction in the sixth, knocking Medina to his backside with a left hook. Medina tried complain to Byrd that it was a slip, but to no avail. Video replays indicated that it was a clean knockdown.
Medina came right back in the seventh as he drove Bautista into the ropes with a flurry of punches, forcing Byrd to call a knockdown because the ropes held him up.
Bautista scored his second knockdown out of nowhere in the 11th round, flooring Medina with a massive right hand. Bautista made it to his feet and danced around for the last minute or so to avoid another big shot.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.