Kelvin Daly stood unsteadily Friday night, surrounded by family members and his trainer at the Waldorf Jaycees Community Center. Blood dripped down the left side of his face from a cut above his left eye. His right eye was so swollen he could barely see out of it.
But he was standing. And for the first time in six years, the 138-pound Hyattsville resident left the boxing ring a winner, having won a six-round unanimous decision over fellow junior welterweight Luis Rosales of Washington in the third match of a five-fight card sponsored by the Maryland State Athletic Commission.
The night's main event featured welterweight Curtis Peoples of Landover, making his return to the ring after a three-year absence. But Peoples' return was unsuccessful, as was the comeback of the other Prince George's County resident on the card, heavyweight Terrance Wood of Upper Marlboro.
So it fell to Daly, a 33-year-old driver with United Parcel Service, to win. He came through, in a fight that was by far the most evenly matched of the evening and elicited the strongest crowd reaction.
"I was totally ecstatic, excited, thankful," said Daly, who looked like he would have smiled were it not too painful. "I made a little statement today. I'm back."
Six years ago Daly left boxing to concentrate on work and family. He returned to the ring last year because he missed the sport, he said.
At first he struggled, losing his first fight after weeks of preparation, then falling in his second fight after agreeing to it on one day's notice. His third fight also ended with a loss.
"Most boxers, when they come back they lose their first fight, then they give up," said Daly, who was born in Guyana and moved to the United States when he was 10. "I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep fighting until I get back to my natural ability.
"I think I'm a world-class fighter. You'll see my name around. I want to be rated in the top 10."
Rosales, a native of Nicaragua, had faced difficult opponents before and entered with a deceiving 3-4 record.
The first two rounds were even, with the fighters landing a good number of punches. Daly delivered an accidental head-butt to Rosales in the third round, opening a cut above Rosales' left eye.
Rosales thumbed Daly in his right eye with 40 seconds left in the next round. Daly said he was blinded for the rest of the round and he spent much of the remaining time on the ropes. Daly gathered himself near the bell, however, landing a flurry of punches.
The last two rounds were tamer, with each fighter looking winded. But apparently Daly did enough in those rounds to impress the three judges, each of whom gave him a 58-55 victory on their scorecards.
"I'm just thankful to UPS for giving me the day off," Daly said before retiring to his dressing room.
An hour later, Peoples went eight rounds against Pedro Sanchez of New York. The 149-pound Peoples was on the defensive for the first few rounds and was knocked down midway through the final round, but was able to survive to the final bell. But he lost on all the judges' scorecards.
"I got away from my game plan, and I got stuck with his game plan," Peoples said. "My game plan was to box him, turn him, move him."
Three years ago, Peoples left the sport because he said he "needed a break." After the loss, which dropped him to 16-6-3 with eight knockouts, he said he would have to talk with his father and evaluate whether to continue.
"It's something I wanted to do," he said. "I've got to back to the drawing board now."
With that, Peoples returned to his dressing room. On his way he would pass Daly, whose comeback had just received a boost.
CAPTION: Pedro Sanchez, left, spoiled Landover welterweight Curtis Peoples' return after a three-year layoff with unanimous decision.