DENVER (AP) _ Returning to his hometown, Stevie Johnston successfully defended his WBC lightweight championship Friday night with a second-round knockout of Julio Alvarez.

Johnston, 26, who first gained the title on June 13, 1997, with a split decision victory over Cesar Bazan, improved to 30-1 with his 15th knockout and his fourth title defense. Alvarez, 28, of Mexico City, fell to 25-6-1.

Alvarez, 135, was victimized by two hooks to the body of Johnston, 134 1/2, who had a slight cut opened over his left eye midway through the round. Johnston said the cut was opened by a head butt, but referee Victor Drakulich said it was opened by a straight right hand from Alvarez.

Johnston finished the round with a combination of left and right hooks to the head of Alvarez.

Johnston began the second round a solid right to the head and didn't let up as he worked Alvarez to the ropes where he responded with a barrage of 20 blows to the body and head of the challenger. The direct shots came in five-punch increments that staggered Alvarez.

Drakulich finally stepped in and stopped the fight at 2:35 of the second round of the scheduled 12-round fight.

In the undercard, junior middleweight J.C. Candela, 154, of Atlanta, scored a ninth-round knockout of Gary Jones, 156, of Washington, D.C.; middleweight Manuel Lopez, 164, of Denver, won a unanimous decision over Rob Bleakly, 165, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and welterweight Larry Mosley, 147, of Los Angeles, outpointed Edgar Pedraza, 145, of Tijuana, Mexico, to win his pro debut.