By Jake Donovan
Odlanier Solis perhaps drilled the final nail in his proverbial coffin, as 42-year old Tony Thompson managed a split decision win on the road Saturday evening in Turkey.
The bout was struggling for the most part, with its most entertaining aspects coming with the inconsistent results provided by open scoring. In the end, Thompson managed yet another upset to keep his career afloat, perhaps putting the end to another in the process.
Solis offered a measured pace in the opening round, allowing Thompson to outwork him with the jab although there was a method to the madness. The slow approach allowed Solis to open up in round two, surprising Thompson with a flurry seconds into the round, disrupting the American's rhythm.
The strategy wasn't effective for very long, simply because Solis refused to let his hands go. Thompson was the busier fighter, even if not offering very much behind any of his punches. Still, it was enough to create the perception that he was controlling the pace and the action.
The judges believed otherwise, or so suggested the first batch of open scoring results. Solis was comfortably ahead on all three scorecards, leading 40-36 an 39-37 (twice) through four rounds. The scoring sent an ugly message to both fighters - Thompson, despite remaining the buiser fighter, wasn't doing enough; and Solis could continue to fight as slow or quick as he pleased, without fear of penalty from the ringside officials.
Thompson took a more deliberate approach in the middle rounds. The 42-year old still wasn't putting much behind his punches, but was far more purposeful in his means of attack.
Meanwhile, Solis continued to set traps, allowing the taller southpaw to come to him in hopes of setting up counterpunching opportunities. The mix of styles meant a slow moving affair, and near deafening silence from the crowd on hand.
The fight became interesting only after open scores were revealed through eight rounds of action. Thompson managed a clean sweep of rounds five through eight on two judges' cards to take a 77-75 lead on their tallies, while Solis was ahead 78-74 in the eyes of the third judge.
Solis put in some of his best work of the fight in the later rounds, only after catching an earful from promoter Ahmet Oner. The Cuban defector came out swinging in an active round ten, but the threat of action spilling over into championship rounds never transpired.
Instead, it was Thompson who appeared to regain control. A lengthy jab was followed up with hooks and enough movement to disallow Solis to work his way inside as effectively as in the earlier rounds.
The threat of an upset was alive and well in the closing moments of the fight, though the delay between the final bell and the reading of the scorecards raised skeptic eyes.
The judges were split in the end, but two out of the three appeared to get it right. The fight could have honestly gone either way - and did - although Solis winning 116-112 on one scorecard seemed terribly off.
Scores of 115-113 and 115-114 in favor of Thompson were more in line with the 12 rounds of boxing that took place. With little to choose from in several of the rounds, Thompson's greater activity proved to be the difference just enough to score his third road upset in the span of four fights.
The win advances Thompson's ledger to 39-4 (26KO). Back-to-back knockout wins over David Price last year brought forth a career resurgence for the American southpaw, who was always viewed as dangerous but already having hit a ceiling with a pair of knockout losses to Wladimir Klitschko, who still serves as lineal heavyweight king.
All told, Thompson has now spent five straight fights on the road, going 3-2 in the process. The former heavyweight title challenger hadn't fought since a decision loss to Kubrat Pulev last August.
It's up to the rest of the division to provide fresh faces at the championship level. Solis once upon a time had a chance to make that difference, but walking around more than 50 lbs. heavier than his prime years as a top amateur barely a decade ago have done his career no favors.
The fleshy heavyweight suffers his first non-championship loss, falling to 20-2 (13KO). Physically, time is still on the side of the former amateur standout, but it's a matter of whether or not he possesses the necessary discipline to whip himself into the necessary fighting shape to make an impact in the heavyweight division.
Until then, aged veterans like Tony Thompson will continue to hover. It's a lesson the rest of the divison continues to fail to heed.
Agit Kabayel overcame an atrociously slow start, riding a second half surge to escape with a split decision win over Gbenga Olouken in their 10-round heavyweight co-feature.
The fight was entertaining in spots, slow-moving at times, but never a rout in either direction at any point in the fight.
Olouken was the aggressor in the early rounds, while the unbeaten Kabayel looked like a fighter perhaps matched a bit too ambitiously for his 10th pro contest. Open scoring through four rounds revealed an even fight on two cards, with Olouken ahead on the third card.
The second half of the fight helped lend any credence to an otherwise debatable final decision. Kabayel took the lead, increasing his activity over the back five rounds. The increased pace forced Olouken out of his rhythm, expending energy and gaping for air in the later rounds.
A strong finish by Kabayel helped seal the deal, his record moving to 10-0 (7KO).
The thickly muscled Olouken - a Nigerian now based in Germany - offered a credible account of himself, but leaves with his fifth straight loss as he falls to 18-10 (11KO).
One the strangest pro debuts to ever take place came in the opening bout of the telecast. Bugra Horus came into Saturday's affair with high expectations from his team. Any dreams of future glory quickly disappeared the moment the oversized Turkish heavyweight lumbered into the ring.
The instead showcase bout for Horus instead turned out to be an easy night's work for Goga Abuladze, a fringe Georgian cruiserweight who picked up a surprise 1st round stoppage.
Abuladze was fighting outside of his native Georgia for the first time in his career, but was up to the challenge. Horus, on the other hand, looked like a man who had second thoughts about a pro career the moment the opening bell rang. He didn't fight scared, but the grossly out of shape debutant never managed to find a rhythm or even a desire to get going. The disinterest perfectly segued into the stoppage, which came at the end of the opening round.
At one point, Abuladze suffered three consecutive 1st round knockouts. Saturday's affair marks the first time he lands on the favorable end of that equation. The win advances his record to 16-5 (10KO), having now won three straight.
Borus drops to 0-1 (0KO), with the outside view suggesting a one-and-done career.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox