ORLANDO – An attempt to further unify the welterweight titles ended in a questionable stalemate.
No winner came from the lineal, WBA, WBC, IBO and WBO 147-pound championship unification bout between Chicago’s Jessica McCaskill and England’s Sandy Ryan after ten rounds. Judge Mark Streisand (97-93) drew a chorus of boos with his wide card in favor of McCaskill. Judge Mike Ross (96-94) scored in favor of Ryan. Barry Lindenman (95-95) awarded five rounds apiece to McCaskill and Ryan to produce a split decision draw in their DAZN-aired bout Saturday from Caribe Royale Orlando in Orlando, Florida
Ryan immediately put her significant height and reach advantages to good use. The Derby-based WBO titlist used her jab to set up long right hands and digging body shots. McCaskill—a former undisputed champ who was stripped of her WBO and IBF belts—struggled to work her way inside the opening round and was wide with most of her punches.
Momentum remained with the Englishwoman in round two. Ryan continued to target the body and landed a three punch combination. Her attack also included a warning from referee Samuel Burgos for pushing down on the back of McCaskill’s head. McCaskill tightened up her attack and landed a right hand later in the round.
McCaskill took the lead in round three, as blood trickled from Ryan’s nose. A switch to southpaw saw Ryan land a right upstairs along with a series of looping lefts. McCaskill attempted to return fire but fell short with nearly every punch.
Ryan put her defensive skills to use in rounds four and five. McCaskill tried to time her with singular, chopping shots, most of which failed to find the mark. Ryan dug her left hook to the body and added a right hand over the top behind it later in the round. McCaskill dodged a one-two and responded with a left hook which Ryan slipped.
McCaskill landed a left hook early in round six. It was an isolated moment of success for the two-division champ, whom Ryan peppered with jabs and right hands. McCaskill attempted and missed with a long right uppercut near the end of the frame.
Ryan dodged a right hand and landed a right and left hook to the body in the seventh. Right hands upstairs were her weapon of choice for the rest of the round, while McCaskill continued to throw one shot at a time. Ryan remained the more effective of the two in the eighth as McCaskill struggled to find the mark.
Two-way action broke out in a fast-paced ninth round. McCaskill closed the gap and landed upstairs. Ryan rode it out and immediately responded with power shots of her own as the two exchanged to the delight of the crowd. Ryan landed a right hand which McCaskill shook off and walked forward to land a right hand which she followed with a right and a left hook.
Ryan went back to basics in the tenth and final round. McCaskill stood directly in front of her foe but was consistently beaten to the punch. Ryan landed textbook one-twos and used subtle movement to immediately negate and counter opportunities.
In the end, the titles remain exactly as where they were prior to the opening bell.
McCaskill is now 12-3-1 (5KOs) and credited with her fourth overall welterweight title defense. She is now 7-2-1 in title fights spanning three weight divisions, having previously unified two titles at junior welterweight before she dethroned long-reigning undisputed welterweight queen Cecilia Braekhus in August 200. She came up short in her undisputed 140-pound championship versus Chantelle Cameron last November, which resulted in two of her alphabet titles being made available.
Ryan is now 6-1-1 with the unfavorable draw, which most in attendance believed should have landed in her favor. The draw marked her first official title defense of the WBO welterweight title she won in a ten-round decision over unbeaten Marie Pier Houle on April 22 in Cardiff. Saturday marked the U.S. debut for the former amateur standout, one which undoubtedly left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Headlining the show, Brooklyn’s Richardson Hitchins (16-0, 7KOs)—a 2016 Olympian for Haiti and rising contender—and former title challenger Jose Zepeda (37-3, 28KOs; 2NC) meet in a scheduled 12-round junior welterweight bout.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox