Ekow Essuman kept hold of his British and Commonwealth welterweight titles with a strong showing down the stretch to claim a majority decision over Chis Kongo on the Eubank-Smith undercard in Manchester.
Kongo’s slicker boxing gave him the edge in the first half of the fight but Essuman slowly ground him down in the second half, as he repeatedly pinned him to the ropes and rocked him in the final round.
One judge, Phil Edwards, had it a draw, 114-114, but Michael Alexander and Victor Loughlin sided with the defending champion by scores of 116-113 and 115-114 respectively.
“It was the experience of the having those other fights, those other 12-rounders, those other really hard fights where I had to dig deep, where I had to go certain places and come back from it – it helps,” Essuman said. “As you come up through the ranks, people can look down on you, you’ve just got to keep beating who is in front of you, even when the odds are against you, you just have to keep pushing.
“Boxing is about what you can do when you are tired, not what you can do when you are fit and my name’s the Engine.”
Kongo boxed well from distance in the opening round, but he was nailed by a good right when Essuman got close. But in the second it was still Kongo leading the tune as Essuman waited for an opening.
Kongo continued to frustrate Essuman’s hopes of getting inside in the next two rounds, but Essuman started getting closer in the fifth round and opened up, forcing Kongo to hold on.
Things started to go south for Kongo in the sixth round, as Essuman pinned him to the ropes and opened up.
In the seventh round, Essuman continued to drag Kongo into a fight and the challenger was now having to work hard to keep Essuman off him. Kongo did land one decent right hand, but the better shots were now coming from Essuman.
But Kongo provided a response in the eighth round as he got back on his jab and kept Essuman at distance.
Essuman came back again in the ninth round, as he beat Kongo to the jab early on and then backed Kongo into the ropes and landed a big right. Kongo tried to trade, but was caught by a big left, followed by a swinging right cross that forced him to hold, but Kongo looked hurt.
Essuman spent the tenth round walking Kongo down and trying to pin him down. Kongo started the eleventh fast, but was caught by a big right and was back on the ropes again. While Kongo did his best to land up close, it was Essuman landing the harder punches.
Kongo was holding his own in the last as Essuman walked him down, but another swinging right badly rocked the Londoner back onto the ropes. He was on unsteady legs now, but landed a one-two when Essuman missed and managed a spurt before the final bell.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.