Alex Dilmaghani and Francisco Fonseca battled their way to a draw for the vacant IBO super-featherweight title after a fierce encounter fought at a relentless pace at the York Hall in East London.
For the first seven rounds the two stood toe-to-toe, neither giving ground, but after Dilmaghani was cut by a clash of heads it was Fonseca, a two-time world title challenger from Nicaragua, who finished the stronger.
Fonseca had to settle for a draw, though. British judge Howard Foster scored the fight 115-114 to Fonseca, while Pawel Kardyni, of Poland, and Roberto Ramirez Jr both made it a draw, 114-114.
Dilmaghani, who is largely unknown in his homeland after spending much of his professional career in Mexico and Canada, felt his better combinations had given him the edge, but said he was in the market for a world-title fight, even saying he would move down to featherweight for a shot at Josh Warrington, the IBF champion, if given the chance.
“I’d absolutely love that fight,” Dilmaghani said. “I make super-featherweight very comfortably. I don’t care who I fight, Mick (Hennessy, the promoter) tells me a date and I’m ready to go.”
There was very little feeling out as pair stood in front of each other every round, unloading at close quarters. Dilmaghani threw his punches in neater combinations, often firing back with spurts of punches when under fire, Fonseca was relentless, looked the heavier handed.
For the first seven rounds, the action were incredibly close, with neither seeming able to dominate for more than 20 seconds at a time
In the eighth round, Dilmaghani’s pace and the toll of body shots seemed to have an effect on Fonseca for the first time, although any lull in the action from the home boxer was usually met with a thunderous reply by Fonseca.
The ninth was going Fonseca’s way until a heavy clash of heads dropped Fonseca to the canvas and left Dilmaghani with a bad cut above his left eye.
Suddenly Fonseca seemed to have the upper hand and when Dilmaghani backed into the ropes, the Nicaraguan caught him with three hard right hands. Fonseca again seemed to hurt Dilmaghani in the final round as the home boxer seemed to fade, although Fonseca was denied by the judges’ cards.
“I felt a bit stale because I have been out of the ring for six months, but I thought I won, I thought I did enough,” Dilmaghani said. “The cut hindered me, I couldn’t really see out of [the eye], but I’m glad it entertained.”
“He’s a well-respected, world-class fighter and I proved I am at that level and beyond now. The tactic was to work the body and I was surprised he took it well, respect to him.”
John Joe Nevin secured the best win of his stop-start professional career with a wide unanimous points decision over Freddy Fonseca, Francisco’s older brother.
Nevin, who won an Olympic silver medal for Ireland in 2012 less than five miles from York Hall, was too slick for Fonseca. He picked his punches well, built a huge lead and while he faded a bit in the later rounds, he was never in danger of losing.
Every time Fonseca walked forward he was stepping into trouble, being knocked down when caught flush by a neat one-two combination in the second round. That made the Nicaraguan more wary and Nevin looked happy to control matters behind his jab after that.
The judges scored the fight 97-92 (twice) and 99-90 in Nevin’s favour to give the Irishman the WBA international title.
Samuel Antwi dominated his super-welterweight six-rounder against Fernando Valencia, winning 60-55 on Lee Cook’s card, the referee presumably giving Valencia a share of the last round.
Antwi found the Spain-based Mexican an easy target with the right hand, rocking him with a hook off the ropes in the second rounds as Valencia came forward. Valencia
Michael Hennessy Jr, got his third win as a professional, against one draw, as he was a points winner over Richard Baba, of Hungary, in a lively middleweight six-rounder. The 20-year-old, the son the promoter, Mick, was on top, but got caught too often as he tended to neglect his defence. Referee Mark Bates scored it 60-55.
Lewis Smith extended his unbeaten record to four fights, winning every round of a super-lightweight six-rounder against Naheem Choudhry, who was losing for the 60th time in 63 bouts. Mark Bates, the referee, scored it 60-54.