In the face of adversity, ‘Wild’ Will Tomlinson (21-0-1, 12 KOs) overcame a brave performance from Malcolm ‘Stone’ Klassen (27-6-2, 14 KOs) to retain his IBO super-featherweight title via a controversial unanimous points decision in an enthralling battle of wills at The Melbourne Pavilion overnight.
All three judges looked favorably towards the defending champion for his controlled aggression and punch output, distributing disputed verdicts of 117-110 and 118-109 twice in Tomlinson’s favour. That said, Klassen, 31, will leave Australia with his head held high after pushing Tomlinson all the way with a performance that many doubted he had in him.
Tomlinson, 26, came out aggressively and was rewarded for it when referee Pete Podgorski somewhat generously ruled what appeared to be a Klassen slip in the closing staging of the opening round as a knockdown. In hindsight, this ruling benefited the viewing audience as Klassen returned from his stool in the second round with a renewed sense of urgency.
After falling victim to the impressive tempo that Tomlinson set early on, Klassen began to operate like a surgeon, cutting Tomlinson in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds with what can only be described as a combination of head clashes mixed with a series of shots thrown throughout the handful of clinches that took place.
With the momentum shifting several times throughout the fight, both fighters tried to desperately gather any kind of rhythm, but were continually taken out of their respective game plans. Klassen continued to land crisp jabs with alarming regularity, but Tomlinson was often launching razor-sharp assaults to Klassen’s mid section – who appeared to be too comfortable fighting off the ropes and on the back foot.
Growing frustrated with Klassen’s continued use of his head in the clinch, Tomlinson began rough-housing his South African counterpart to mixed success. Although the defending champion was clearly outworking his challenger, Klassen would often counter with eye-catching hooks between Tomlinson flurries which impressed many in attendance – but not the three scoring judges.
Appearing to realize that he was comfortably ahead on the scorecards, Tomlinson took control and closed out the final round in style. To the delight of the sold-out crowd, Tomlinson stormed forward – urging a reluctant Klassen to engage as he taunted his opponent with facial and hand gestures. The passionate crowd roared Tomlinson home as he ultimately secured the hardest of his twenty one victories.
“I’m going to America,” an elated Tomlinson said post-fight.
“I want to thank all my Melbourne fans for coming out, but this is the last time you’ll see me for a little while,” Tomlinson continued. “He was tough, I struggled to land a lot of my shots cleanly. It was a hard fight, he was definitely the hardest fighter I’ve faced so far.”
“Tomlison showed he can compete with the top fighters in the super-featherweight division.” said his promoter Gary Shaw. “There’s a lot of good fights out there for Will. I’ll be discussing his next fight with his team and I know he’ll be ready. This kid has a bright future to look forward to.”
The win was Tomlinson’s fourth consecutive points victory, who improves to 21-0-1 (12 KOs). As for Klassen, the loss was his first in almost four years and marks the first time he has tasted defeat since Robert Guerrero dethroned him of his IBF super-featherweight title in 2009 as his log drops to 27-6-2 (14 KOs).