By Jake Donovan
Will Tomlinson dug deep in the final rounds of his 12-round IBO super featherweight title fight with Malcolm Klassen. It turned out to be unnecessarily expended energy, as the judges had his back all along.
A controversial 1st round knockdown paved the way for a ridiculously wide points win for Tomlinson over the former two-time alphabet titlist Thursday evening at Melbourne Pavilion in Flemington, Victoria, Australia. Scores were 117-110 and 118-109 (twice), cards that suggested that none of the three judges actually bothered to watch the fight.
Klassen enjoyed a strong round ultimately gone awry by a shove that was horribly ruled a knockdown. Tomlinson leaned into Klassen, causing the former champ to trip over his feet. Referee Peter Podgorski must have only caught the tail end, as he issued a count.
The same pattern held true in round two, save for any controversial calls. Tomlinson struggled to time the veteran's punches, getting caught clean while never getting his feet set in time to sufficiently offer return fire.
Tomlinson enjoyed his first solid round in the third, but was left with a battle scar for his efforts. Both fighters had their moments, particularly Tomlinson who had Klassen hurt and briefly stunned along the ropes. However, Klassen managed to later score with a clean right hand to produce a gushing cut over Tomlinson's left eye.
The action swayed back and forth as the rounds poured on. Confusion over the official ruling on the cut was finally clarified when the cause was properly recognized as by a punch. The issue became doubly troubling for Tomlinson when another straight right hand in round eight left him with a second cut in virtually the same location.
Tomlinson kept the fight close in the middle rounds, taking advantage of Klassen's inactive spells. A reversal of fortunes came prior to the championship rounds as the visiting Klassen fought with supreme confidence. Tomlinson was reduced to the role of plodder, his offense largely ineffective as a result of his veteran opponent's lateral movement.
A comeback of sorts was suggested in round ten. Tomlinson was the busier fighter, while Klassen grew overconfident and far too selective with his punches. Action slowed to a crawl in round 11, as Tomlinson fought through the blood and dared Klassen to stand and trade. The road fighter refused to oblige, but was briefly caught off guard when a right hand drove him to the ropes.
Klassen's untimely decrease in punch output ultimately cost him the fight. Tomlinson wasn't always effective, but was the far busier fighter of the two. He was also the more spent, leaning on Klassen in the closing seconds of the fight but finding enough energy to celebrate once the final bell sounded.
The complete opposite reaction was expressed by Klassen, who halfheartedly raised his arms before shaking them out almost in disgust. Even more nauseating was hearing the final cards read, though there is a case to be made that he threw away the decision regardless.
Tomlinson advances to 21-0-1 (12kO); Klassen falls to 27-6-2 (14KO).
Garth Wood impressed in a 2nd round stoppage of Virgil Kalakoda in their televised co-feature. Wood jumped out to an early start and never relented. The drop in weight from light heavyweight to middleweight was of concern to local experts given the three months between fights, but the 34-year old looked trim and fit in the brief affair.
A right hand started the rally early in the second, as Kalakoda covered up in hopes of riding out the storm. An uppercut initially prompted referee Ignatius Missailidis to jump in, only to immediately back off once he recognized the visiting fighter still had his faculties.
Wood continued to unload relentlessly, throwing wide punches but finally forcing Kalakoda (24-9-3, 16KO) to a knee. The third man reached the count of ten as the South African middleweight barely rose to his feet.
The official time was 1:07 of round two.
Wood improves to 12-3-1 (8KO), scoring his second straight win after suffering back-to-back losses. The crowning achievement of an otherwise journeyman career remains his upset knockout win over Anthony Mundine more than two years ago, only to drop a decision four months later. Wood tried to squeeze out any lingering momentum but a lopsided loss to Sam Soliman officially put an end to the Cinderella story.
Matt Garlett rode an early lead all the way to the finish line, scoring a unanimous decision over visiting Sipho Taliwe of South Africa.
Scores of 115-111 (twice) and 116-110 didn't at all reflect the competitive nature of the fight. Taliwe was the busier of the two fighters throughout most of the contest, particularly the second half of the fight. However, an early knockdown and a point deduction for an accidental headbutt proved too much to overcome.
Open scoring didn't help Taliwe's cause any. If anything, it served as a benefit to Garlett, who was running on fumes in the final four rounds. The best Taliwe could hope for after eight rounds was a split decision draw, but his late surge wasn't enough to close the early gap.
Garlett advances to 11-1 (6KO); Taliwe falls to 20-3-1 (14KO), suffering his first loss in more than six years.
Previously unbeaten lightweight Bashir Sadiq suffered a shocking 1st round knockout loss at the hands of local underdog Dominic Shchukin (1-1-1, 1KO). A straight right hand put the Afghani prospect down barely a minute into the bout. Sadiq (3-1, 1KO) desperately tried to beat the count, but was still wobbly even as he attempted to protest the referee's stoppage, which came at 1:23 of round one.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: