Manchester - Lerrone Richards recorded the best victory of his career as he won a split decision against Carlos Gongora to claim the IBO super-middleweight belt in a fight, on the Parker-Chisora bill, that never really caught fire but ultimately was boxed at Richards’s pace. 

Richards, the former European champion, is more effective than exciting and he won the fight without giving the impression that he had ever really moved out of second gear. Instead, he stuck to his tactics, stayed on the outside in the main and never got greedy, using his right jab well and waiting for Gongora to fall short before throwing the left. 

Richards, 29, was having only his 16th fight and any criticism of him should focus on him not being busy enough, as he had the opportunity, after Gongora began to get frustrated to close the fight out in style, when Gongora was allowed to get close and make things a bit uncomfortable. 

Two judges, Howard Foster and Olena Pobyvailo, made Richards the winner by 115-113, while Giustino Di Giovanni had it 116-110 to Gongora, a wild split the probably reflected some of the early rounds when barely any punches landed at times. 

“He is going to have to be more exciting at the top, top level to become a real star but what he does have is bundles of ability,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “He is going to be very difficult to beat.” 

It was a sharp start by Richards, who had some success in the first round by countering’s Gongora’s southpaw jab with a sharp left over the top. Gongora clocked Richards with a solid left hook early in the second but Richards regrouped well and Gongora found himself picked off as he walked forward. 

But in the third round, Richards started to get negative, as he moved away constantly and as Gongora tried to move closer in the fourth round, he found Richards always moving away. 

Richards was busier in the fifth round, although Gongora had some success at the end of the round as he landed his overhand left.  

Finally, in the seventh round, Richards began to stand close and trade and he had some success as he landed a good uppercut in close and then landed a good one-two and Gongora dived in. 

The pace of the fight was working against Gongora, who looked frustrated in the eighth round, as he stood off at a range that made him easy to catch. Once again, though, Gongora put some pressure on in the ninth round, as he landed a series of hooks as Richards tried to smother him. 

Gongora could not follow it up in the tenth round, though, as Richards again picked him off as the Ecuadorian stood off and while he landed a decent body shot at the end of the eleventh round, Gongora was short on ideas to close Richards down and didn’t find the punches in the last to turn things around. 

“I’m glad I got the win, it wasn’t the best Lerrone Richards but the best is still to come,” Richards said. “I allowed him to slide in later in the fight but I feel I had done enough to win. “ 

Michael Alexander was the referee.