Matching a fighter early in their career is an exercise in inviting criticism. In essence, it’s a game of show-and-tell, bringing a shiny new item you’ve been telling all your friends about for weeks and months, and allowing your classmates to come to their own conclusions about it. Once in a while, the item is so outstanding and, crucially, presented perfectly, and all the hype you’d built up in your schoolyard chatter is validated completely. But most of the time, the lofty expectations you’ve set are too high to ever be met, and the shortcomings, the minor flaws are what’s discussed in the wake of the revelation instead. 

Boxing prospects are treated the same way, as commodities promoters hope fans will be enamored by and whose virtues the audience will help extol through word of mouth. When a fighter turns pro, there’s a boilerplate script to follow when introducing them to the broader public. Their amateur accolades are shared as proof of their built-in skill and proper schooling, and if for some reason their accomplishments are sub-extraordinary, the reasoning is that they were “better suited for the pro game.” More importantly though, the fighter must claim that their intention is to win a world title, multiple usually, and the promoter boasts through a Cheshire grin that they have foreseen future success that the audience must trust is on its way and follow along with from the very beginning. 

When expectations are set like this, as they almost always are with prospects of note, early career bouts can often be a lose-lose proposition in terms of public relations. Match the fighter softly and induce violent knockouts? You get the highlight reel clip for social media, but questions about whether the fighter is being sheltered or not. Match the fighter tough and make them grind out a points decision? You’ve given the fighter positive experience in the ring, but removed the veneer of imperviousness and created questions about their ceiling.

On Saturday night, welterweight prospect Cyrus Pattinson and those in charge of his career were able to enjoy the best of both worlds in that regard. The 5-0 Pattinson was matched up against the 23-6-3 Chris Jenkins, the toughest test of his young both objectively and according to oddsmakers, who had Pattinson closing as a -800 favorite, the narrowest betting odds he’d been listed in since he’d turned pro. When matchups of this ilk appear on paper, two prevailing thoughts tend to go through the minds of educated fans: 1. Either the prospect in the A-side is really good and is being fast-tracked or, 2. The more experienced B-side must be on a steep decline for the matchmaker to be taking a risk like this. 

While one or the other is often the case in this scenario, the best-case scenario for everyone involved is if the former is true but the latter is not. What results then is what unfolded between Pattinson and Jenkins. A back-and-forth physical test in which the prospect was asked serious questions, had to strain to answer them, and both the one taking the quiz and the one querying him came out with a newfound respect. 

Pattinson and Jenkins spent the vast majority of the 22-or-so minutes they had in the ring with one another glove to glove, forehead to forehead, slugging it out on the inside. Often times, in this situation, the fresher, more highly touted fighter will entertain this type of fight because they’re simply physically stronger and know they will erode their opponent quickly. If Pattinson felt that way coming in, it must have been apparent rather quickly that he had an opponent in Jenkins who was equally confident in his ability to do that to him. Pattinson had never gone past six rounds, and Jenkins was more than happy to take part in a fight at an exhausting pace early to see if Pattinson could keep it up for an entire fight. 

The two men lived on the outer edges of brutality for the bulk of the fight, exchanging vicious body shots and multi-punch combinations to the head. The action reached its peak in the eighth round, a breathtaking frame in which the fighters themselves seemed to be caught up in the cinema, the enjoyment of what was unfolding, feet planted in front of one another, ignoring wiser offensive options but choosing the one that was most pleasing for the audience. The round, and the fight itself, might not win any Best Of voting at year’s end, but will certainly be revisited when those conversations happen. The year in boxing already has produced fights with similar action at an even higher level, but this fight provided an element of entertainment those fights could not. The element of the unexpected, the prospect being pushed to lengths he wasn’t supposed to encounter, the possibility that the powers that be were watching their plans fall apart, the underdog making it all happen.

In defeating Jenkins the way he did, Pattinson established himself not just as a prospect whose outcome people will be invested in, but one whose journey to the destination will be fruitful all on its own. Who wouldn’t want to watch another Pattinson fight like that one? Many of his contemporaries at the career stage he’s currently in are merely curiosities, fighters taking part in token outings that are showcases of their skills rather than evaluations of them. It’s a fine line for fighters, matchmakers and promoters to toe. Leave too much up to fans’ imaginations and they start to believe they’re being deceived. Reveal too much and you create more tangible doubts.

But as always, when boxing is done absolutely right, it can be the best of everything. A teachable moment, an intriguing showcase, a hotly-contested affair, without having to negotiate between the three. 

"I couldn't have asked for a better dance partner, really," Pattinson told Matchroom Boxing cameras following the fight. "I enjoyed every minute of it."

Corey Erdman is a boxing writer and commentator based in Toronto, ON, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman