IBF junior bantamweight champion Mark Johnson of Washington made a successful first title defense Friday night, scoring a unanimous decision in stopping Mexican Jorge Lacierva in the ninth round at the Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Referee Steve Smoger stopped the bout at 2 minutes 7 seconds of the ninth round when he felt that Lacierva (14-3-3) could not continue because of a nasty gash over his right eye caused by an accidental head butt in the fourth round.

Under IBF rules, the scorecards are used to determine a fight stopped after four rounds by an accidental head butt. Judges William Hutt and Don O'Neill scored it 79-73. Judge Clark Sammartino scored it 77-75.

Johnson (38-1) did not have an easy time of it. Lacierva was willing to trade punches for most of the fight.

But the accidental head butt in the fourth round left Lacierva bleeding profusely from his right eye. The bout was halted while physician Joseph Carpentieri examined the eye.

When the bout resumed, Lacierva began fighting with a sense of desperation. Johnson weathered several good combinations, then administered several of his own in the sixth and seventh rounds.

In the ninth round, Smoger said Lacierva was complaining that he could no longer see. That's when Smoger stopped the bout.

Johnson has won 37 straight fights. His only loss came in his second pro fight nine years ago against Richie Wenton in Ireland.

Johnson captured the IBF junior bantamweight title in April when he won a unanimous decision over Ratanachai Vorapin. Johnson had previously been the IBF flyweight champion, making seven successful defenses as a 112-pounder.

Johnson plans to move out of the 115-pound division and campaign at either 118 or 122 pounds.

Johnson, who was paid $100,000 for his first title defense as a junior bantamweight, hopes to get a better payday against some of the bigger names in boxing. Johnson indicated that Prince Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales were high on his list of possible future opponents.