LAS VEGAS-Ghana’s Joshua Clottey captured the vacant IBF welterweight title by technical decision over New York’s speedy Zab Judah when the Brooklyn fighter suffered a cut over his eye on Saturday.

With new WBA welterweight champion Antonio Margarito sitting ringside and looking ominous, a cut over Judah’s right eye forced the scheduled 12-round fight to go to the scorecards early in the ninth at the Palm Casino before a crowd of more than 2,000 at the ritzy venue.

If Judah thought the decision would go his way, he guessed wrong.

Early on Judah surprised many by standing in front of the strong Clottey and exchanging punches at close quarters. By the fourth round both were able to land thudding blows but it was Judah’s lightning combinations that impressed the crowd, but not the judges.

By the second round Judah was bleeding from the nose and mouth from repeated lead right hands from Clottey.

In the third round it looked like Clottey was going to put Judah away with lead right hands. Judah’s head snapped repeatedly and he seemed to have no answer for the punch. But he kept circling and trying to stay out of danger by using his jab.

Judah picked up the tempo with some super quick combinations to the body. Clottey tried to get back in the round but Judah fired off a five-punch combination with blazing speed that impressed the crowd.

Clottey had a strong round in the seventh when he landed a left hook and right hand that dazed Judah. The bleeding made it look even worse for the Brooklyn southpaw.

In the ninth round both fighters exchanged punches at close range. Judah emerged with a bad cut over his left eye and referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight to let the ringside physician examine it. Judah told the doctor he could not see so the fight was stopped at 1:22 of the round.

Judge George Hill scored it 86-85, Glenn Trowbridge 86-85 and Duane Ford 87-84— all scored it for Clottey.

“He never hurt me,” said Clottey (35-2, 21 KOs) who cheered wildly after the fight was stopped. “The fight was very close.”

Judah seemed satisfied that the crowd favored him.

“The whole arena thought I won the fight,” Judah (36-6, 25 KOs) said.

Other bouts

Anthony Peterson (28-0, 19 KOs) used his speed and accuracy to out-score Mexico’s Javier Jauregui (53-15-2, 36 KOs) in a 10-round fight. The judges scored it 100-90 twice and 99-91 for Peterson. Jauregui, a former world champion, trains in Mira Loma.

Riverside’s Michael Franco (13-0, 8 KOs) won by unanimous decision over Colombia’s Felix Flores (14-9-1, 11 KOs) in a six round bantamweight decision. Franco scored a knockdown in the sixth round with a body punch to the southpaw’s belly. The judges scored it 60-53 twice and 59-54 for Franco.

Oxnard’s Miguel Garcia (13-0, 11 KOs) dropped Mexico’s Jose Hernandez (11-7-1) once in the second round and then took the fight inside against the southpaw in a featherweight bout. A blistering combination in the seventh left Hernandez teetering. At the beginning of the eighth and final round Garcia jumped on Hernandez with lefts and rights, forcing referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight at 44 seconds of the round.

Omar Chavez (11-0-1, 9 KOs), the second son of Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez, hit too hard for Jeremy Marts (4-3, 3 KOs) who was knocked down three times in the junior welterweight bout. The third and final knockdown came at 2:44 of the first round when former the former Riverside resident Chavez fired a right uppercut and a left hook to force referee Vic Drakulich to stop the fight.

Joseph Judah (3-0) kept his undefeated streak with a so-so win over Javier Sanchez (1-2). Neither fighter took control of the fight and each had their moments. The judges scored it 39-37 for Judah in the junior middleweight bout.

Las Vegas junior welterweight won 60-52 on all three cards against Scott Furney of New Mexico. It wasn’t as easy as it seemed, Furney never let up.

Middleweights Don Mouton (6-2-1, 6 KOs) of Houston and Richard Pierson (6-2, 5 KOs) of New Jersey put on a good show for almost six complete rounds, but an overhand right hand with one second left ended it with a knockout for Mouton at 2:59 of the sixth round.