Andrzej Fonfara and Nathan Cleverly combined to set CompuBox records Friday night for most combined punches thrown and landed in a light heavyweight fight.
They also gave boxing fans a bona fide candidate for fight of the year.
Fonfara outlasted Cleverly over 12 entertaining rounds to claim a victory by unanimous decision at Chicago's UIC Pavilion in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card. The judges scored it 115-113, 116-112, 116-112 for Fonfara.
Fonfara and Cleverly combined to throw 2,524 punches and land 936, both CompuBox records.
A native of Poland who fights out of Chicago, Fonfara (28-3, 16 KOs) also set individual CompuBox records for a light heavyweight by landing 474 punches and attempting 1,413.
Despite bleeding from a grotesquely swollen nose over the second half of the fight, Cleverly (29-3, 15 KOs), of Wales, simply never stopped coming forward. A former 175-pound titlist, Cleverly challenged Fonfara's gas tank by setting a hectic pace.
"Cleverly has a great chin," Fonfara said. "He's a great fighter. He was taking a lot of punches and not breaking down. He still wanted to go forward and fight. He believed he could win until the very end."
The fight had an old-school feel from the opening bell, with each fighter taking turns teeing off on the other. Neither man committed to defense of any kind, and rarely did they go to the body.
Cleverly, 28, who fell to 3-3 over the past two years, routinely clowned Fonfara in the middle rounds by talking trash and waving him forward with his gloves. But he backed up his bravado with a gutsy effort, and neither fighter hit the canvas despite each landing more than 50 percent of their power shots.
"I thought I would knock him out before the fight," Fonfara said. "I had no idea he could take so many punches and still be in the fight. I realized it would be very hard to knock him out. I respect him very much."
Normally a slick boxer, Cleverly, who dropped back down in weight after a four-fight run at cruiserweight, chose to brawl on the inside and routinely found a home for uppercuts with both hands. But it was a style that played into the hands of Fonfara, who is the bigger puncher and rallied to hurt Cleverly in Round 7, bloodying his nose.
A defiant Cleverly came out in Round 8 to back Fonfara up against the ropes with a flurry before Fonfara rallied again with big punches late.
The ringside doctor stopped the fight momentarily to inspect Cleverly's nose in Round 10 before Fonfara finished strong in the last two rounds.
"It was a fantastic fight," Cleverly said. "I had a feeling that our styles were going to jell and that's what happened. It was a war from the very first bell, and I am not surprised that it broke the records for the most punches thrown, because when we started we just didn't stop.
"[Fonfara] can really bang. He's not far off Sergey Kovalev for power," he said, referring to the unified light heavyweight titlist. "But I thought I had him until the nose went, and I think that without that, I could've got the win."
The victory was the third straight for Fonfara, 27, since dropping division champion Adonis Stevenson late in a 2014 decision loss.
Kono outworks Kameda to defend title
Kohei Kono defended his junior bantamweight title by unanimous decision over former two-division titlist Koki Kameda in a wild bout featuring brawling, fouling and referee indecision.
In the first world title fight between two Japanese fighters on American soil, Kono (31-8-1) outslugged Kameda at close range throughout to earn judges scores of 115-109, 116-108 and 113-111.
"Early in the fight, I wasn't sure I could take his power," Kono said. "But after he hit me a few times and I was still there, I started getting confidence."
But the toe-to-toe action was nearly marred by the pushing and low blows from both fighters, along with referee Celestino Ruiz constantly inserting himself into the fight.
The bout took a wild turn in Round 2 when Kono was dropped to his knees after a pair of low blows. Moments later, Kono rallied to floor Kameda (33-2, 18 KOs) with straight right hand.
"I got caught in the second round because I made a mistake I shouldn't have made," Kameda said. "He fought very well, and I was surprised by his power."
Ruiz then docked a pair of points from Kameda for hitting low in Round 3. The warnings continued to both fighters in Round 4, although Kono got away with a low blow of his own that was missed.
By Round 7, a frustrated Ruiz stopped the action again, telling both fighters he would stop the fight if he had to warn them again for holding, pushing and hitting below the belt.
Ruiz later took a point away from Kono in Round 9 for pushing Kameda's head down.