(Donald Trump and wife Melania Knauss-Trump at Madison Square Garden for Saturday’s fights. Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
NEW YORK CITY — An ultra-close fight was decided by a razor-thin margin where a 12th round point deduction gave heavyweight Bryant Jennings a win over Mike Perez that would’ve otherwise been a draw. And it’ll probably be fodder for debate for a little while.
The scorecards read 114-113 Perez, 115-112 Jennings and 114-113 Jennings. Add a point to the last scorecard for the one deducted from Perez and we’ve got a split draw.
The 12th round saw Perez push Jennings hard against the ropes, almost over them, then he held him there and punched down at him with the referee clearly moving in for the break. It was probably a deliberate foul, so on that level you can make the case that the deduction was warranted for that alone. On the other hand, it was a close fight, one where the point deduction could’ve and did decide the outcome, and it’s not as if the referee had given Perez so much as a warning for earlier roughhousing, especially head butting, so the culture in there was that he was probably OK to keep being rough. I lean toward not taking the point away.
The fight itself featured a ton of posing between flurries of action. Both men are technical boxers by instinct, not big-punching heavyweights. Neither of them made a huge impression. Perez started better, with Jennings maybe biding his time against the overweight Cuban. But Perez eventually got busy, and the Philly crowd kept him going. Many of the rounds were close, but the middle to late rounds belonged to Jennings. Perez stole one back in the 11th. Perez would’ve won outright on my card, even without the point deduction, as he took the 12th.
It was not a stellar audition for either man, even the winner, as a heavyweight to get terribly excited about. Both are pretty good, but flawed, with Perez’s head maybe just not in it after the near-fatal injury of Magomed Abdulsalamov. Jennings figures to get the better opportunity next, possibly the winner of Bermane Stiverne-Deontay Wilder, which isn’t a bad fight. But if the Stiverne-Wilder winner goes straight to heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko, then Jennings doesn’t figure to beat the winner of that one, not based on this showing.