Unbeaten heavyweight Bryant Jennings stayed that way with a 12-round split decision over previously undefeated Mike Perez at the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
The bout was televised live on HBO Championship Boxing.
Judges Joseph Pasquale and Glenn Feldman had Jennings winning the fight by scores of 115-112 and 114-113. Tom Schreck scored the fight for Perez by a 114-113 tally.
Maxboxing also had it for Jennings, 114-113.
The end result was determined by referee Harvey Dock, who deducted a point from Perez for pushing in the last round. Without the deduction, the bout would have been declared a split draw.
With his victory, Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs) could face the winner of the bout between WBC champion Bermane Stiverne and mandatory challenger Deontay Wilder.
The bout was more tactical than terrific. Perez, a southpaw, stalked his taller opponent. Jennings, fighting for the first time since stopping Artur Szpilka last January, wanted to box. Perez was the busier fighter in the first few rounds.
The blocky Perez, now being trained by Adam Booth, likes to counter. In round two he landed a long left, but ate a right in return. Jennings circled to his left. He stuck out his jab. A left hook also landed. Perez (20-1-1, 12 KOs) worked the body and head.
In rounds three and four, Perez continued to push forward. Jennings, 29, worked his jab.
Perez, 28, appeared to be tiring in round five. He still managed to land some good shots, but wasn‘t punching as much. Jennings looked unsure of what to do. He did connect with a one-two combination that brought a smile to Perez’s face.
Jennings absorbed a combination in round six, but connected with a good left hook in the next round. Perez shook off the blow and punched back. Jennings, the fresher of the two fighters, brought more energy to the match in rounds eight and nine. The tricky Perez landed a thudding left. Jennings staggered Perez with an inside hook.
The more athletic Jennings pursued his edge in the next few rounds. Perez, his hands at his sides, fired looping blows. Most missed. Jennings, who resides in Philadelphia, failed to capitalize.
Jennings had some success when he switched to southpaw. Perez looked gassed. Jennings landed a short right hand. Perez tried to rally in round 11. A combination clipped the chin of Jennings. A left to the body also landed. Jennings connected with another inside uppercut.
The fighters came out with more intensity in the last round. As reported above, with Jennings on the ropes, Perez was deducted a point for hitting on the break. Perez battled back, but he, and the fight ended on a ragged note.
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