Photos and Report By Brock Ellis
IN the face of adversity, 'Wild' Will Tomlinson overcame a brave performance from Malcolm 'Stone' Klassen to retain his IBO super-featherweight title via a controversial unanimous points decision in an enthralling battle of wills at The Melbourne Pavilion overnight.
All three judges looked favourably towards the defending champion for his controlled aggression and punch output, distributing disputed verdicts of 117-110 and 118-109 twice in Tomlinson's favour. That said, Klassen, 31, will leave Australia with his head held high after pushing Tomlinson all the way with a performance that many doubted he had in him.
Tomlinson, 26, came out aggressively and was rewarded for it when referee Pete Podgorski somewhat generously ruled what appeared to be a Klassen slip in the closing staging of the opening round as a knockdown. In hindsight, this ruling benefited the viewing audience as Klassen returned from his stool in the second round with a renewed sense of urgency.
After falling victim to the impressive tempo that Tomlinson set early on, Klassen began to operate like a surgeon, cutting Tomlinson in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds with what can only be described as a combination of head clashes mixed with a series of shots thrown throughout the handful of clinches that took place.
With the momentum shifting several times throughout the fight, both fighters tried to desperately gather any kind of rhythm, but were continually taken out of their respective game plans. Klassen continued to land crisp jabs with alarming regularity, but Tomlinson was often launching razor-sharp assaults to Klassen's mid section - who appeared to be too comfortable fighting off the ropes and on the back foot.
Growing frustrated with Klassen's continued use of his head in the clinch, Tomlinson began rough-housing his South African counterpart to mixed success. Although the defending champion was clearly outworking his challenger, Klassen would often counter with eye-catching hooks between Tomlinson flurries which impressed many in attendance - but not the three scoring judges.
Appearing to realise that he was comfortably ahead on the scorecards, Tomlinson took control and closed out the final round in style. To the delight of the sold-out crowd, Tomlinson stormed forward - urging a reluctant Klassen to engage as he taunted his opponent with facial and hand gestures. The passionate crowd roared Tomlinson home as he ultimately secured the hardest of his twenty one victories.
"I'm going to America," an elated Tomlinson said post-fight.
"I want to thank all my Melbourne fans for coming out, but this is the last time you'll see me for a little while," Tomlinson continued. "He was tough, I struggled to land a lot of my shots cleanly. It was a hard fight, he was definitely the hardest fighter I've faced so far."
The win was Tomlinson's fourth consecutive points victory, who improves to 21-0-1 (12 KOs). As for Klassen, the loss was his first in almost four years and marks the first time he has tasted defeat since Robert Guerrero dethroned him of his IBF super-featherweight title in 2009 as his log drops to 27-6-2 (14 KOs).
BACK inside a boxing ring for only the third time in two years, Garth 'From The Hood' Wood looked every bit of a new fighter as he systematically broke down the usually durable 'Vicious' Virgil Kalakoda in two one-sided rounds to pick up the vacant WBA Pan African middleweight strap.
After a relatively successfully albeit short lived stint at light-heavyweight, Wood, 34, returned as a slimmed down middleweight and in less than six minutes he left center ring in the midst of a near rebirth. Gone is the reckless brawler that famously sent Anthony Mundine crashing to the canvas in 2010, Wood (now 12-3-1, 8 KOs) displayed a maturity well beyond some of his experience - picking off a helpless Kalakoda (now 24-9-3, 16 KOs) who was felled by a perfectly timed right uppercut.
Wood was in a reflective mood post-fight, admitting he approaches every fight as if it were his last. Surrounded by new team consisting of legendary Australian trainer Johnny Lewis and Lincoln Hudson, Wood is looking to break into the middleweight world ratings as he looks for greater opportunities in the near future.
UNTESTED but promising prospect Matt Garlett had no business being in the same ring as WBC International super-featherweight titlist Sipho Taliwe.
Garlett, 28, had only previously fought the six-round distance three times as a professional and boasted a resume that made for light reading - especially when compared to the vastly more experienced and arguably more talented Taliwe, 32, who entered the fight with a lofty #3 world rating by the WBC.
Twelve rounds later, Garlett boxed and punched his way to a narrow but unanimous points victory in what can only be considered as a major upset. To put Garlett's inexperience into perspective, Taliwe had boxed 128 rounds as a professional, in comparison to Garlett's mere 37 rounds.
To the surprise of many, Garlett was more than willing to trade punches with the more favoured Taliwe, as he seemingly caught the South African off guard with his deceptively fast combinations. Taliwe expended large amounts of energy chasing the fleet-footed Garlett, who was able to land clean shots with relative ease in the early stages of the fight.
With the widely criticised open-scoring in play by the WBC, Taliwe entered the closing stages of the fight knowing that he needed a knockout to win. Taliwe relentlessly chased Garlett, who was content to fight off the back foot as he freely scored with his jab - which was a key factor behind his wide lead, not to mention a surprise knockdown courtesy of a counter left-hook.
Garlett (now 11-1, 6 KOs), was visibly marked around both eyes with light swelling, but appeared more than comfortable to sit on his apparent lead. Taliwe (now 20-3-1, 14 KOs), entered the twelfth and final round knowing a knockout was essential and chased Garlett to no avail despite chasing him with a near demonic relentlessness.
The result will more than likely catapult Garlett from near obscurity to a credible world rating by the WBC.
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