ALEX DILMAGHANI and Francisco Fonseca engaged in a frantic 12-round war inside Bethnal Green’s York Hall in London that was ruled a majority draw by the judges. The two fighters spent many of the 36 minutes in ring centre, unloading combination after combination, to produce a superb contest. At the end, two scores of 114-114 overruled a 115-114 tally in Fonseca’s favour. From this viewpoint, Fonseca – who grew classier with each passing round – appeared to have done enough to triumph.
The rivals were supposed to face off at the end of September but after an incident curious even by boxing’s standards, Fonseca was forced to pull out at the last minute after vomiting heavily in the changing room.
It was worth the wait.
In a tight but entertaining opening round Dilmaghani approached behind his customary high guard. The Crayford-based southpaw scored to the body and with a sweeping left hand to the head. Fonseca – based in Costa Rica but fighting out of Nicaragua – replied with swift raids downstairs.
The second session was also fought at a fast pace as the two fighters fought to establish control. Fonseca, who has twice failed in bids for the IBF super-featherweight title (against Gervonta Davis and Tevin Farmer), was busy but his defence was the more porous early on.
The visitor, 25, was tagged by a right hand in the third and a left to the ribs. The Englishman, though, was warned by his corner at the end of the session to keep his work at longer range.
Yet Dilmaghani kept motoring forward. Fonseca was starting to find the target and lefts and rights swarmed all over the 28-year-old.
The action intensified in the fifth as the rivals exchanged furiously. Still Dilmaghani pushed forward and he took a sharp left hook in the sixth but the betting favourite had success of his own: A three-punch volley concluded with a left to Fonseca’s temple. At the halfway point, it was anyone’s fight.
Fonseca began the seventh aggressively but some of the snap seemed to have gone from his punches. In response, Dilmaghani upped the pressure with blows to the body. Fonseca briefly seemed hurt from a left to the stomach and his energy level dipped further in the eighth. But the Nicaraguan pluckily rallied only to be greeted by a smile from his opponent when he scored with his right.
An accidental head clash in the ninth sent Fonseca to his knees in round nine but it was Dilmaghani, suddenly badly cut, who came off the worst. The wound energised Fonseca as he flung punches at the bright red target over his rival’s right eye. Kerry Kayes – one of the game’s premier cuts men – went to work on Dilmaghani before the 10th and did a fine job of stemming the tide.
Seemingly undeterred, Dilmaghani attacked with purpose during a fascinating three minutes. Fonseca’s uppercut was on the money before he was clouted by a huge left that made him hold. But Fonseca, no stranger to the 12-round distance, responded dangerously before the bell.
The home fighter looked tired in the 11th. Fonseca poured on the pressure as he sensed the energy drain from his opponent. The fast pace remained, though, and both fighters were sent out for the last round with instructions to press hard for victory.
It was Fonseca who finished the stronger but Dilmighani continued to stay close and fired back, as he pluckily refusing to be overawed.
At the final bell, the two rivals embraced and the crowd waited for the verdict. Tellingly, the 115-114 score (from Howard Foster) triggered more applause than the announcement of the draw.