Things looked bleak for Isaac Hlatshwayo early on in his rematch with Delvin Rodriguez last night at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT but the South African buckled down and managed to pull off a split decision victory to capture the vacant IBF Welterweight title.
At just 5'7, former lightweight Hlatshwayo had to get inside if he was to overcome the six foot tall Rodriguez and the local man punished the African, making "The Angel" pay the price for each step forward with big right hands.
After their 12 round draw in South Africa in November, Rodriguez had the timing of Hlatshwayo down cold and picked off the shorter man on the way inside but the visitor just never stopped coming even when he was hurt in the third.
Rodriguez simply couldn't stop Hlatshwayo's forward progression and the action moved to the inside as Rodriguez tired and could no longer keep the Johannesburg native at bay.
This suited Hlatshwayo as the bout was waged from the second half on at point blank distance, allowing the shorter-armed ex-two weight IBO titlist to land barrages of punishing hooks and uppercuts.
Hlatshwayo never let up and after the final round swept two of the cards, 116-112 and 116-113 while Rodriguez won the third by a score of 115-113.
Isaac Hlatshwayo is the new IBF welterweight champion via a hard fought split decision and improved to 29-1-1 (10). Rodriguez drops to 24-3-2 (14) and may have suffered a hand injury during the bout.
On the undercard, promising New York super featherweight Maureen Shea, 13-2 (7), was battered by hammer-fisted Canadian Lindsay Garbatt, 3-2 (3), before the contest was stopped at 1:52 of the seventh. Shea has now lost two straight.
Undefeated 38 year old super middle Tarvis Simms, 25-0-1 (11), had all he could handle from towering Marcus Upshaw, 11-4-1 (5), who got off the canvas in the fourth only to lose a split decision over eight rounds.
Heavily hyped light middle prospect Demetrius Andrade, 6-0 (5), made short work of Chad Greenleaf, 11-13-1 (5), finishing off the journeyman with a body shot at 1:38 of the second round during a scheduled six.