Dillian Whyte hoped to steal the thunder from his countryman Anthony Joshua, but had to be content with a “W” and a minor WBC trinket after outpointing Robert Helenius over 12 rather dreary rounds. Whyte’s fight last year with Dereck Chisora was a humdinger. The see-saw battle was the consensus pick for “Fight of the Year.” His match tonight with Helenius was at the other end of the spectrum.
Helenius, the so-called Nordic Nightmare, landed perhaps the best punch of the fight when he stunned Whyte in the second round. But the 6-foot-6 Finn fought just to survive over the second half of the fight, apparently after injuring his right hand in round six. The final scores were 119-109 twice and 118-111.
Heading into the match, promoter Eddie Hearn said that he hoped to pit Whyte, now 22-1, against Deontay Wilder in February. That match, should it come to pass, will be big but lost a little luster with Whyte’s showing tonight.
In a battle of unbeatens, Khalid “Kal” Yafai improved to 23-0 while retaining his WBA super flyweight title with a workmanlike 12-round unanimous decision over Osaka’s Sho Ishida. The scores were 118-110, 116-112, and 116-111.
A scrawny beanpole, the 5-foot-8 Japanese invader had a 4-inch height advantage. He stole a few rounds by keeping Yafai at the end of his jab, but he didn’t punch hard enough to deter Yafai, a former Olympian, from pressing the action.
The super flyweight division is a very strong weight class. Yafai, an Englishman of Yemeni descent, is expected to pursue a unification match in 2018. The other 115-pound belt-holders, at the moment, are Japan’s Naoya Inoue (WBO), Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (WBC), and Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines.
Frank Buglioni successfully defended his British light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over former sparring partner Craig Richards. The scores were 117-111 twice and 116-113.
Buglioni was slated to fight 16-0 Callum Johnson, but Johnson pulled a Pulev, leaving promoter Hearn scrambling for a replacement. Richards, who was in action last week in Belfast, answered the call. He came in undefeated (10-0), but those wins were achieved as a super middleweight and his 10 foes were collectively 86-187-15.
Buglioni (21-2-1), whose nickname is “Wise Guy,” was making the second defense of the title he won with an upset of previously undefeated Hosea Burton. His next fight is expected to be a rematch with Burton.
Katie Taylor, the most decorated amateur boxer in the history of Ireland, took a step up in class and passed the test with flying colors, snatching a world title in only her seventh professional fight. The 31-year-old Taylor, from the Irish seacoast town of Bray, won a wide 10-round decision over Buenos Aires-based Anahi Esther Sanchez (17-3), who came in overweight, meaning that the WBA lightweight strap was on the line only for Taylor.
Taylor, who trains in Vernon, Connecticut where there are few distractions, knocked Sanchez down with a body punch in the second round, but Sanchez rebounded and made things dicey for Taylor in the next frame before the Irish boxer seized control of the fight. All three judges had it 99-90.
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