ATLANTIC CITY, JUNE 24 -- While discussing his first professional defeat, a seventh-round knockout to Bobby Czyz today at the Convention Center, Andrew Maynard tried to pour himself a glass of water -- and missed his glass entirely.

"I told you I couldn't see," said Maynard of the swollen right eye that eventually led to his downfall with 42 seconds remaining in the round. "I went after him but when I got close I couldn't see a thing and when I went back a distance I saw three individuals -- not including the referee."

Maynard retained his North American Boxing Federation light heavyweight title, however. After suffering a neck injury while training, an overweight Czyz almost bowed out of the scheduled 12-round, 174-pound fight.

As a compromise, Czyz was allowed to fight at 177 pounds but the bout was reduced to a 10-round nontitle contest.

"I was very concerned about Andrew, more so than other people I've fought in the top 10 and I respected him so much that I almost stopped the fight," Czyz said. "But I'm not 22 or 23 anymore and there aren't too many more title fights left for me. It's time for me to put up or shut up."

Maynard's eye began bothering him after he butted heads with Czyz in the second round. Before the start of the decisive round, things were so bad that the ringside doctor, Frank Doggett, went to Maynard's corner.

Many thought the fight would be stopped then but Doggett walked away mouthing the words "one more round," and holding his thumb and index finger about an inch apart -- about all the space that kept Maynard's eye from closing completely.

At the bell, the Laurel, Md., resident, who had treaded cautiously for most of the first six rounds, stepped up his attack. A strong right and a quick combination connected solidly but a short time later Czyz landed a right hand that sent blood splattering across the ring.

Maynard never recovered from that blow, staggering into an overhead left that floored him. After hesitating, Maynard appeared to jump up before the conclusion of the 10-count but referee Frank Cappuccino waved his arms, ending the fight. Maynard's first defeat in 13 bouts was initially announced as a technical knockout but Cappuccino said afterward that the loser had not responded to the 10-count and was officially knocked out.

"I counted to 10 and he didn't get up," Cappuccino said. "I always count right in the fighter's face; maybe he wasn't seeing too good and I was counting loudly but maybe he wasn't hearing too good."

While Czyz was certainly effective enough today, the biggest smile belonged to Maynard, who remained cheerful in the face of what both he and manager Sugar Ray Leonard called a "good learning experience."

There were a number of people present who thought that the experience was a bit too much too soon for Maynard, a 1988 Olympic gold medalist whose first professional fight was 16 months ago today.

Czyz was a veteran of 40 pro bouts, winning 35, 24 by knockout. After losing to Prince Charles Williams for the second time last June, Czyz made good on a self-imposed promise to retire if he lost to the same man twice.

Czyz unretired in March, defeating Uriah Grant, but the unimpressive win, combined with the layoff and the fact that he had lost four of his previous seven fights, apparently made him appear manageable enough for Maynard's handlers.

"I heard all that stuff about bringing him along too quickly but I don't believe it," Leonard said. "This may be a blessing in disguise; it's like getting knocked down your first time out. Later on you know what to do -- some guys get knocked down in their 25th fight and they don't know what the hell to do."

Despite his fighter's troubles, Leonard insisted that Maynard was winning the fight at the time of the knockout. In fact, while one of the judges, Rocky Castellani, had Czyz winning each of the first six rounds and leading, 60-54, the other two, Frank Brunette and Jean Williams, had it even at 57-57.

The close score could be construed as a testament to Maynard's poise under duress. Regarded as strictly a brawler, Maynard opened the fight patiently, content to circle Czyz, flicking jabs and counterpunching.

If the initial idea was to bide his time and tire out his older opponent, after the head butt in the second round, Maynard said he had no choice and had to stay back because of his triple vision. Although he landed a few solid blows, he never appeared to really hurt Czyz.

Facing a height and reach disadvantage, Czyz played the role of stalker, trying to corner Maynard. The more effective counterpuncher, Czyz stunned Maynard a number of times, especially in the fourth round with a combination that sent his opponent scrambling around the ring in an effort to clear his head.

When the fog lifted, Maynard came back with an effective counterattack. That was too late to win the round but it did give him some momentum to carry into the fifth, which he appeared to win handily.

The rush halted right at the start of the sixth round, however, Czyz quickly connecting twice. The swelling had made Maynard vulnerable to any shots from the left side, and Czyz continued to connect with a number of uppercuts from the wings.

"I was looking for him to come right up the middle against me but he came outside with some roundhouse punches," Maynard said. "I'm the student, he's the teacher. I guess it's back to the drawing board but I'm not the one doing the drawing -- Pepe {trainer Jose Correa} is.

"When he's ready, I'll just stop and look and say, 'I'll buy that.' "