After 30 months without a fight, Mikey Garcia needed just two rounds before he started to look like his old self.
Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs), a former world champion at 126 and 130 pounds, was competing for the first time since he decisioned Juan Carlos Burgos in January 2014 due to a prolonged legal battle with his former promoter.
“A 2½-year layoff sparked a fire in me and motivated me to do the best that I could,” Garcia said.
Rojas (24-3, 14 KOs) was fighting for just the second time since losing a 126-pound title bout to Jhonny Gonzalez in April 2012, and for the first time since outpointing Robert Osiobe over eight rounds in August 2014.
Even so, the 33-year-old Dominican outboxed Garcia over the first two rounds, moving well as he worked mainly behind his jab.
Garcia, a 28-year-old Southern California native, began to find the range midway through Round 3 as he dropped Rojas with a right hand-left hook combination before again sending him to the canvas 30 seconds later with a straight right.
Rojas retaliated with some good shots over the next couple of rounds, but Garcia was seemingly unfazed as he continued his attack.
The end came in Round 5 as Garcia delivered a potent combination of punches that sent Rojas diving prone to the canvas, then finished him off seconds later with a solid left hook that sent Rojas backward and down.
Rojas rose to beat the count, but referee Eddie Claudio waved an end to the bout at the 2:02 mark.
“We trained for a great performance like this and I was thrilled to get the job done,” Garcia said. “It felt great to be here with a supportive crowd behind me. I'm looking forward to getting back in there and winning another world title."
Rojas’ loss marks the first time he has been stopped in his career.
“Mikey is just stronger. I'm a natural 126-pounder fighting above my weight,” Rojas said. “It was a great matchup and Mikey is a great fighter. I have no doubt that he is going to take over the division.
“I was very upset when the fight was stopped. I wanted to keep going because I have a champion's heart and I never want to quit."
Garcia improved to 6-0 with five KOs in his career against current or former world champions.
“I'm happy with his performance. He took a few right hands, but it was his first fight back after a long layoff,” said Robert Garcia, trainer and older brother of Mikey Garcia.
“Elio Rojas is not a nobody. You could tell he was upset about being knocked down. He was the perfect opponent for Mikey's first fight back in the ring. I actually thought it would go a few more rounds.”
In other televised bouts, Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KOs) finished a dominating performance with a ninth-round TKO of Sergey Rabchenko (27-2, 20 KOs), who was stopped for the first time, in a matchup of 154-pound contenders.
Former two-division world champion Paul Malignaggi (36-7, 7 KOs) earned a 10-round unanimous decision over Gabriel Bracero (24-3, 5 KOs) in a 147-pound bout before returning to work as a ringside analyst for Showtime.
For a complete overview of Garcia vs Rojas, visit our fight page.