By Jake Donovan
Orlando, FL-- The rule of thumb with lumbering heavyweights is that a fight can play out as it appears on paper, or the night can change course with a single big punch.
Both were on display - though perhaps too much of the former for the fans' liking - as Malik Scott survived a late knockdown to outpoint Tony Thompson over 10 rounds Friday evening at The Venue on University of Central Florida campus in Orlando, Florida.
By the time Thompson managed to land the punch that provided hope to save what was largely a tactical affair, he was already so far behind that nothing short of Scott staying on the deck was going to save his night.
It didn't take much for Scott to take the lead, just simply fighting his fight and perhaps banking on his southpaw opponent looking every bit his 44 years of age. The first half of the fight saw Scott - who reunited with original trainer Fred Jenkins - use his jab and land enough right hands to bank rounds on the judges' scorecards.
Thompson made the task a bit too easy for his 35-year old foe. The Washington D.C. native plodded forward, failing to throw more than one punch at a time - on far too many occasions not even doing that much - as he would willingly walk into whatever punches Scott elected to throw.
Round four broke that pattern as Thompson was able to get off his punches. Some more of the same came in a relatively competitive round six, but not enough to where Scott was in danger of losing.
The fight reached a point where all that Scott had to do was remain on his feet in order to win. For a few brief seconds, it was almost too much to ask.
Warned by head trainer Troy Fox that the fight was slipping away, Thompson reached deep in his middle-aged body in hopes of scoring a bailout knockout. He closed the gap on a number of occasions, but needed to throw more punches in order to make it effective.
It all came together near the end of round nine. A right uppercut on the inside was followed by a right hook to the temple, putting Scott on the canvas for the third time in his career.
“Malik did a great job of staying away until I was able to catch him with one good shot,” Thompson said of the knockdown sequence and the fight in general. “I would rate my performance a D at best. I was the aggressor but I didn't cut him off good enough until late in the fight.
“My coach kept telling me to go to the right but for whatever reason I only started going to the right late in the fight. That was when I caught him.”
Scott’s previous two knockdowns resulted in stoppage losses, as Dereck Chisora and Deontay Wilder are responsible for his two career defeats. Scott was nowhere near that state, in fact grinning in shaking his head in disgust as he took the mandatory eight count from referee Frank Santore.
The knockout loss to Chisora came because Scott was unaware of England's unofficial "...8, 9... you're out" rule of thumb, which ultimately cost him an unbeaten record.
In his loss to Wilder, Scott simply went down and out in the opening round of their title eliminator last March in Puerto Rico. The two have since become sparring partners and friends, enough to where the unbeaten heavyweight titlist took the ‘Bomb Zquad’ tour van from Tuscaloosa to Orlando to sit in ringside – and in fact at the broadcast table for the duration of the main event.
Scott made it worth his while, rising to his feet in plenty of time to beat the count, finish the round and eventually the fight.
“I was hurt in the ninth, definitely,” Scott acknowledged. “But I'm in great shape and I wasn't worried about it. I got through it and let him know he'd have to do it again to win this fight.”
In hearing the final bell, Scott pulled out his second straight win. The final scores of 95-94, 96-93 and 98-91 all landed in favor of the heavily tattooed 6’4” boxer from Philadelphia. His record advances to 38-2-1 (13KOs), though picking up his first win in exactly 52 weeks.
A career-saving decision win over Alex Leapai came on the road in Australia last October. Scott hoped to cash in the feat but torn biceps kept him out of the ring for the majority of 2015 until this opportunity came along.
Unlike Thompson who – with a win – was looking at a potential title shot at Wilder, the night’s victor simply saw the main event as means to get his career back on track.
“Tony Thompson thought he was going to get past me and fight for a title,” Scott told BoxingScene.com prior to the fight. “I never even gave Saturday morning a single thought until I knew I was done with Friday night.”
Now that he’s done, next career steps will eventually be discussed.
“My skill set was good, but this is one of those tapes I will hate to look at when I get home,” Scott admitted. “Tony got away with a lot. I was making him miss and not making him pay. But let's not forget I haven't fought for a whole year. I have to get more active, so after this fight, we'll see what's next. I'm never satisfied with my performances, but that's what keeps me going.”
For Thompson, what once kept him going no longer exists.
To his credit, he dismissed talks of a third career title shot prior to the fight, insisting he still had to win first and not look his age.
“I ain’t gonna sit here and talk all that s*** about winning the championship,” Thompson said before the fight. “This might be the fight where I fight like I’m 44 years old and I have to call it quits.”
A view of any given fight can be met with a certain amount of subjectivity. Thompson showed signs of life late in the fight, though perhaps attributable to Scott electing to move and not always stick.
He has now dropped three of his last five fights, falling to 40-6 (27KOs) with the loss. A 12-round defeat to Carlos Takam was sandwiched between a pair of upset wins over Odlanier Solis, on the road in Turkey. The victories – in terms of what it did for his lengthy career – were reminiscent of his twice marching to England and knocking out David Price in 2013.
Those wins came on the heels of a second failed title bid versus Wladimir Klitschko, a 6th round knockout loss in 2012. It was far less competitive than his brief moments of success in an 11th round stoppage defeat to Klitschko in 2008, one that came with a five-fight win streak to follow.
Now just .500 in his last eight starts and far removed from the version that had him serving as a top contender, Thompson and his team acknowledge – begrudgingly or otherwise – that the southpaw has hit the end of the road.
“He was just too fast,” Thompson noted after the fight. “If I were younger I would have caught him. A prime Tony would have kicked his ass, but I'm 44 and the years are starting to pile up.
“Malik did a great job of staying away until I was able to catch him with one good shot. He just pitty-patted his way to victory. It was an outstanding performance by Malik. He did what he's supposed to do to an older fighter.”
The bout aired live on Bounce TV, headlining the third installment of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Bounce: The Next Round .
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox