LAS VEGAS, OCT. 25 -- Not so long ago boxing promoters were looking at Andrew Maynard for a future light heavyweight title fight. But a knockout loss to Bobby Cycz four months ago dropped Maynard from contender and a main-event fighter to the first bout on tonight's preliminary card at The Mirage.

Maynard (13-1) started his new comeback, so to speak, by earning a decisive 10-round, unanimous decision over Keith McMurray of Las Vegas. The 1988 Olympic gold medalist from Laurel, Md., said he felt sloppy and out of synch after knocking down McMurray in the first round with an overhand right. "I know I'm coming back from a butt-whipping and I wanted to look good," he said. "I wanted to show people I didn't lose it."

While Maynard was feeling his way back, heavyweight Riddick Bowe remained undefeated by knocking out Bert Cooper of Philadelphia one second before the end of the second round. The bell couldn't save Cooper, who was counted out officially at 3:09 of the second.

Bowe might have his next fight in December in Washington, D.C., where he spends much of his time under the direction of manager Rock Newman. Former Olympian Tyrell Biggs is one of the fighters Newman is considering.

In other bouts involving Washingtonians: Michael Ward, a junior middleweight from Fort Washington, Md., lost a majority decision to Floyd Weaver, brother of former heavyweight champion Mike Weaver. And Kenneth Whack of Palmer Park, Md., went to 7-0 with a majority decision over Joe Varela in another junior middleweight fight.

For Maynard, it was a critical night in his two-year professional career. He won his first 11 fights and was on a fast track, with some promoters touting him for a title shot. But the seventh-round knockout in June at the hands of former light heavyweight champion Cycz changed all that.

Tonight Maynard said he was trying to come back after that loss "let a little air out of my balloon. I was excited just to get back in there. I felt sloppy. I was loading up on so many punches, I was reaching. I threw so many hard punches that missed in the first round, my shoulders were tight.

"I was asking myself, 'What's wrong with my arms?' My timing was off, I wasn't hitting him with any combinations. He made me look rather awkward; I was open for uppercuts and right hands. And although I was throwing some bombs, he was covered up well. My shots weren't catching him solid. They were all glancing blows."

All except the overhand right that put McMurray (12-10-1) on the canvas with 22 seconds left in the first round. "I caught him and saw his eyes roll," Maynard said. But he couldn't put away the taller, counterpuncher.

Maynard fought the entire bout uncertain of his game plan.

To fight or to box? That was the question.

Trainer Pepe Ferrar and Ray Leonard have wanted Maynard to box, not brawl.

"I tried to box with Cycz and it didn't work," Maynard said. "Ever since that night I've been thinking, 'Why didn't I fight him a different way?' "

Maynard says he sees the need to box, instead of brawl, "because I may not be able to keep that up for 12 rounds. Today I tried to put on more pressure. I like the old way a lot better, but the question in my mind is, 'Can I keep it up for 12?' When you're trying something different, you're going to get lost. I got caught smack in the middle. I want to learn. They tell me to box, so I do. But I look so awkward because I never boxed before.

"Everybody asks me whether I disagree with the advice I'm getting, but the answer is no. I respect everyone working with me on this. I've only been a pro for two years. I've got to trust them."

Bowe (20-0) has no such anxiety two years into his pro career. "After tonight, I'd place myself among the top 10 in the division," he said after beating Cooper (22-7). "I said coming into the fight that I thought I was in the top 15."

Cooper was in no position to argue. Bowe threw a right, knocking him down about 30 seconds before the end of the second round for a five-count. Another hand put him out for good just before the bell. Bowe had set up the rights with lefts to the ribs.