By Kieran Mulvaney
In heavyweight action, Bryant Jennings remained undefeated with a close 12-round split decision over formerly unbeaten Mike Perez. The fight would have been a draw had it not been for one errant Perez punch in the final round.
The Philadelphian looked tight at the beginning, flicking out jabs but throwing little of consequence through the first three rounds. Perez, far more experienced with a background in the Cuban amateur system, was evidently more relaxed, taunting Jennings and smiling at him, stepping back out of the range of his opponent's occasional straight right hands and looking to land a southpaw left hand through Jennings' guard.
The fourth round was the first that could legitimately be scored for Jennings, largely on the basis of a right hand to the jaw at the frame's conclusion that was the most impressive punch so far in a fight that was resolutely failing to live up to expectations.
A two-punch Jennings combination in the fifth ended with a right hand that shook Perez, as the tide began to turn. Jennings was finding it easier to time Perez who became progressively more stationary as his extra bulk (he weighed in at 242.2 pounds to Jennings' 226.6) slowly took its toll. The Cuban émigré's tactics increasingly involved throwing some punches and falling forward onto Jennings to tie him up, but Jennings, wise to the plan, sought to unload swift, short combinations as his foe fell on to him, a right hand in the eighth proving particularly effective. At the same time, consistent Jennings body punches contributed to slowing down Perez.
Even so, largely because of his early points advantage, Perez was still in the fight when the bell rang to start the twelfth. Jennings, sensing as much, came flying out of his blocks, looking to put the fight beyond any doubt with some hard combinations. About halfway through the round, Perez leaned on Jennings against the ropes; the American's head and shoulders were well over the top rope and as referee Harvey Dock broke up the fighters, Perez landed a sneaky right hand that earned him a rebuke and a point deduction that would be the difference between a draw and a loss. One score of 114-113 for Perez was countered by scores of 115-112 and 114-113 for Jennings.
"He wouldn't trade with me," said Jennings. "I wanted him to stand in there and fight. I was expecting the inside pressure of Mike Perez. The decision didn't matter, as long as I get the win."