Sam Eggington never tends to do things the easy way and was made to gut it out again in a tough, bruising, enthralling encounter against Bilel Jkitou in Coventry before having his hand raised after a 12-round split decision.
It was absorbing stuff. Jkitou, from France, started the better and hurt Eggington on several occasions, but, despite a nasty cut over his right eye and swellings everywhere on his face, Eggington just outworked Jkitou, finding a punch or a combination when he needed it to keep he nose in front.
The talk in the build-up to the fight had been of Eggington’s world title ambitions. Yet despite the win and a top 15 ranking with the WBC, it is difficult to see how that will happen. Eggington is tough and as brave as anyone, he is also very underrated as a boxer and is a good combination puncher. But he has a style that invites tough battles and, despite being only 27, it is difficult to see how many more battles like this the former British, Commonwealth and European welterweight champion can have.
It was his third successive win since stepping up to middleweight, but the toughest.
“I made harder work of it than I should of,” Eggington said. “I should have boxed more. I switched between boxing and having a war.
“I thought a spilt was harsh. He won a few rounds, more than he should have done. I reverted to what I know and probably shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t be standing there with a short stocky kid.”
Jkitou was unbeaten but was largely overlooked. But he started well and put Eggington under pressure from the opening bell. By the fourth round, Eggington realised there was no more time for working his way in and he stood and traded with the Frenchman.
From then on, the action was relentless. That suited Eggington whose workrate always seemed slightly the better. Jkitou had a good start to the eighth round and Eggington seemed to wilt after being caught with a hook. But Eggington then planted his feet and came back punching again.
The final three rounds were epic, as first Jkitou and then Eggington took turns to get on top. There was a wide split in the scoring, but with so many tight rounds, that was probably no great surprise. On judge gave it to Jkitou by 116-112, the other two sided with Eggington by 117-111 and 117-112.
Stephen McKenna’s run of quick wins came to an end as he was taken the distance for the first time in his professional career by Moussa Gary. McKenna was on top but was often open to Gary’s counters, although he took every round on the card for referee Sean Messer, who had it 60-54.
Gary, from France, did not come to lie down. For the first round he tried to stand toe to toe with the Irishman, matching the Irishman punch for punch. Towards then end of the round, McKenna – who had four first-round stoppages in eight wins (all stoppages) going in – began to get in top, although he sometimes looked wild.
The Frenchman again held his own for much of the second, before McKenna’s non-stop power punching began to get through later in the round. But the longer things went, the more comfortable Gary seemed to be and, while McKenna’s punch volume ensured he was well ahead, Gary was finding him and never looked in real danger of being stopped.
Try as he might, River Wilson Bent just could not get rid of the durable Gabor Gorbics, although he extended his unbeaten record to ten, with a wide ten-round points victory at middleweight.
Wilson Bent was on top throughout and referee Sean Messer scored it 100-90. That was correct, but did not do justice to the brave effort of Gorbics, from Hungary, who soaked up punishment throughout. Only once, at the end of the seventh round, did Gorbics look likely to be stopped as he looked desperately tired in his corner, but he kept going and made Wilson Bent work for everything.
Shakan Pittars won his second successive fight since losing the British light-heavyweight title to Craig Richard and he battered Farouk Daku, from Holland, before running out a one-sided points winner over eight rounds.
Another one-sided winner was Aaron McKenna, Stephen’s brother, who claimed a 60-52 points win over Ivica Gogosevic, of Croatia, at middleweight.
Isaac Chamberlain returned after a year out with a shoulder injury and got one round of action against Ben Thomas. Chamberlain floored Thomas with a huge right hand but was pulled out by his corner at the end of the round.
Tommy Welch, the heavyweight son of former British champion Scott, was taken the distance for the first time as he extended his unbeaten record to five fights with a 40-36 points win over Alvaro Terrero.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.