Kendall Holt retained his WBO junior welterweight title with a split decision over fellow American Demetrius Hopkins on Saturday.
Judges Luis Rivera (117-111) and Alan Rubenstein (116-112) both favored Holt, who appeared to dominate the 12-round fight at Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Ballroom. However, Julie Lederman — much to the surprise of most ringside observers — scored it for Hopkins (115-113).
With the victory, Holt (25-2, 13 KOs) for a unification fight early next year against WBC champion Timothy Bradley.
Hopkins (28-1-1, 11 KOs) headed back to Philadelphia with his first loss and the frustration of not being able to capitalize on his chance to win the title.
The 28-year-old Hopkins was scheduled to fight on the undercard before moving into the main bout today when Ricardo Torres decided he was too sick to make the 64kg weight limit and declared he would not be making the trip from his native Colombia.
Hopkins originally looked capable of pulling off an upset. He was the busier fighter in the opening round, mixing left jabs with strong right hands that appeared to hurt Holt even though he smiled after most of the punches.
But Holt never got rattled to the point where he ventured from his game plan. Urged on by his vocal supporters, Holt consistently cut off the ring, pinned Hopkins to the ropes or corner, and punished him with body shots.