“The 989 Assassin” came to the 313 and got a KO6.

Returning to the ring after 10 months off, heavyweight Jermaine Franklin knocked down 2004 U.S. Olympian Devin Vargas twice and forced a corner surrender atop a DAZN-streamed “Big Time Boxing USA” card from Detroit on Thursday night.

It was the 30-year-old fringe contender Franklin’s second straight win since consecutive competitive losses to Dillian Whyte and Anthony Joshua – and it was Vargas’s fifth straight defeat. The 42-year-old Vargas has gone 5-11 since a 17-0 start to his career, falling to 22-11 (9 KOs) after a fight whose outcome was largely preordained.

Franklin promised a KO heading into the bout at Wayne State Fieldhouse, and it looked initially like it might come very early. The younger man from Saginaw, Michigan, hurt Vargas with a right hand in the opening round and whaled away as the bloated “Devastating Devin” covered up. Vargas displayed impressive recuperative powers throughout the fight, though, and saw his way through the trouble.

The pattern repeated in the second round, when Franklin hurt his man badly with a left-right combination but couldn’t quite take him off his feet. Still, you rarely see punches land as flush as those Vargas was absorbing toward the end of the round. The former Olympian was game, however, and, his mouth wide open at almost all times, he kept the third round close.

But Franklin (23-2, 15 KOs) broke through in the fourth. A massive right uppercut hurt Vargas, and he soon took a knee in the corner – and a shot from Franklin while on that knee. The fight seemed about over when Vargas just barely beat Detroit referee Ansel Stewart’s count at nine, but it was allowed to continue and, blood pouring from his nose, Vargas was fighting back by round’s end.

Two rounds later, however, Franklin delivered the punches to force the finish. A right hand to the body hurt Vargas, then a crushing left-right combination in the corner put him down again. He was up quickly, and the bell rang before Franklin could follow up, but Vargas and his trainers recognized that he had taken enough punishment for one night, and the contest was waved off between rounds.

“I felt like I made the fight harder than it needed to be,” Franklin said afterward. “I’m not going to lie: Once I landed the first power punch, I just got happy. I couldn’t calm down. I got outside of my game plan.”

Franklin weighed in at 254 pounds, nearly 20 more than he did against Joshua. “I got a little bit off my diet, so I got a little fat,” he admitted with a smile. He expressed a desire to stay much busier going forward, hoping “to fight three or four times a year if I can.”

His promoter, Dmitry Salita, called out Joseph Parker as a preferred opportunity for Franklin but said, “If we don’t get a big fight, we’re going to keep him busy on Big Time Boxing USA.”

The co-feature offered competitive, compelling action between unbeaten junior welterweights Joshua “Double-J” Pagan and Roger “The Hitman” Hilley, and in his first eight-rounder, as well as his first pro fight against a southpaw, Pagan overcame a bad first-round cut to win a unanimous decision and keep the zero at the end of his record.

Boldly sporting the “Hitman” nickname in Detroit with Tommy Hearns in attendance, Hilley, 30, came out fast, closing the distance on his taller opponent, banging away in the corner, and cutting Pagan, 24, on the left eyelid with a clean right hand in the first minute of the fight.

But Pagan’s corner did a fine job controlling the flow of blood, and he appeared to sweep the next few rounds, calmly firing combinations and outboxing Hilley. It was a pleasing meshing of styles, except for when the lefty-righty positioning resulted in occasional head clashes. Pagan had probably his best round in the eighth, boxing on his toes and landing potshots and combinations as Hilley struggled to get business done.

All three judges scored the fight 78-74 for Pagan, from nearby Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hilley, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, saw his record dip to 13-1 (8 KOs) with the defeat.

“I’ve been cut in sparring before,” Pagan (10-0, 4 KOs) told DAZN’s Al Bernstein afterward. “I’ve also been cut in another fight. I just knew I needed to keep my calm and stick to the game plan. I give Roger Hilley a lot of credit – he’s the toughest opponent that I’ve fought by far. … I just had to outsmart him in there.”

In the opening fight of the broadcast, super middleweight contender Ali Akhmedov had an easy time with 40-year-old journeyman Encarnacion Diaz, dropping the Costa Rican southpaw twice and stopping him in the second round.

Kazakhstan’s Akhmedov (21-1, 16 KOs) sent Diaz (18-5, 11 KOs) to the canvas with a left hook midway through Round 2, and soon put him down again with a right cross. Referee Ben Rodriguez waved it off with Diaz still on a knee at the count of eight and exhibiting no inclination to rise, the end coming at 2:14 of the round. It was the 28-year-old Akhmedov’s fifth consecutive win since a KO12 loss to Carlos Gongora in 2020.

Akhmedov’s quick KO made time for a four-round middleweight swing bout between a pair of 30-year-old Detroit locals and former sparring partners, Josiah Shackleford and Ja’Shar Banks. In his fourth fight already in 2024, Shackleford (3-1, 2 KOs, 1 NC) controlled the fast-paced action all the way and busted Banks open late in the fourth. But Shackleford couldn’t take the game Banks – who was making his pro debut – off his feet and settled for a unanimous 40-36 decision.