LAS VEGAS – Vito Mielnicki Jr. handled Alexis Salazar much easier Saturday than highly touted contender Xander Zayas dealt with Salazar 11 months earlier.

Mielnicki dropped Salazar three times in the first round and stopped the Mexican veteran just 2:27 into their scheduled 10-round junior middleweight match on the David Benavidez-Demetrius Andrade undercard at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena. Referee Robert Hoyle stopped the action as soon as Salazar went down for the third time.

The 21-year-old Mielnicki, of Roseland, New Jersey, improved to 16-1 and produced his 11th knockout. Mielnicki, who expected this to be the toughest fight of his four-year pro career, fought for the first time with new trainer Ronnie Shields in his corner and showed improvement after sparring nearly 100 rounds against unbeaten WBC middleweight champ Jermall Charlo during his recently completed camp.

Salazar (25-6, 10 KOs), who is trained by Hall-of-Famer Freddie Roach, lost by knockout for just the second time in his 10-year pro career. Prior to Saturday, WBC interim middleweight champ Carlos Adames (23-1, 18 KOs) was the only opponent to stop Salazar inside the distance.

Zayas (17-0, 11 KOs) defeated Salazar by unanimous decision in their eight-rounder last December 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

On Saturday, Mielnicki landed a hard jab that dropped Salazar for the first time. Salazar jumped right to his feet, but Mielnicki wobbled him with a left hook soon after the action resumed.

Salazar then went down to the seat of his trunks after Mielnicki connected with a left hook to the top of his head. He had difficulty getting up from that second knockdown and didn’t last much longer.

Hoyle waved an end to the action as soon a left-right combination by Mielnicki sent Salazar to one knee, down for the third time in their brief bout.

Mielnicki has won eight straight fights since Philadelphia’s James Martin (10-4-1) upset him by majority decision in an eight-round bout in April 2021 at Shrine Auditorium & Exposition Center in Los Angeles. In his bout before he took out Salazar, Mielnicki became the first fight to stop another Mexican veteran, Jose Sanchez Charles (20-4-1, 12 KOs), in the fourth round of their 10-rounder on the Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia undercard April 22 at nearby T-Mobile Arena.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.