Former lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr. returned to the win column -- but in highly controversial fashion -- with a majority decision victory over Maxi Hughes on Saturday night in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
The 114-114, 117-111 and 115-113 scores in favor of Kambosos (21-2, 10 KOs) were met by a chorus of boos as a frustrated Hughes shook his head in disappointment.
Hughes (26-6-2, 5 KOs) entered the ring nearly a 3-1 underdog then delivered a career-best performance on the strength of his southpaw jab and slick boxing. He stunned Kambosos with a left hand to the body in Round 3 and then sliced up the Australian fighter's right eye in the fifth round with a straight left.
That punch down the middle was Hughes' best weapon all night in the ESPN main event, but it wasn't enough to win over the three judges.
"I'm absolutely devastated," said Hughes, who outlanded Kambosos 98-90. "Nobody thought I was supposed to be in George's league. Tonight, I came and I showed that I should have had my hand raised. I don't want to take George's moment.
"I used my footwork. I made him miss and pay. I landed the cleaner shots. I don't want to sound like a sore loser, and I will watch it and assess it, but everyone here now knows who Maxi Hughes is."
Hughes, a 33-year-old from England, was coming off the biggest win of his career, a majority decision victory over former champion Kid Galahad in September. He is likely to land another meaningful opportunity following his U.S. debut, but it's Kambosos who moves on to bigger fights.
Kambosos, a former four-belt lightweight champion, was looking to rebound from a pair of losses to Devin Haney in Australia last year and did so after a slow start.
"We won the fight by many rounds," said Kambosos, ESPN's No. 5 lightweight. "That's no discredit to Maxi Hughes. He had a couple good rounds. But a couple good rounds don't win you the fight. We won a majority of the rounds. That's the reason we chose him. He was a hard test."
The victory is Kambosos' first since a decision win over Teofimo Lopez in ESPN's 2021 Upset of the Year, a performance that lifted Kambosos to the top of the loaded 135-pound division.
"I need to get grittier," Kambosos said. "He was moving a lot and wasn't engaging a lot, but that's the way he fights."
Davis remains undefeated with rout
Keyshawn Davis, an Olympic silver medalist, maintained his undefeated record with a 10-round unanimous decision victory over Francesco Patera in the ESPN chief-support bout.
The scores were 100-89, 99-90 and 100-89 for Davis, who floored Patera with a counter right in Round 8.
That was the first time Patera, a 30-year-old from Belgium, was on the canvas in his pro career.
Davis (9-0, 6 KOs) didn't otherwise deliver an explosive performance but again showed off his educated jab and boxing ability. Most of all, he gained valuable experience against a veteran fighter ahead of what he hopes is a title shot next year.
"I give myself a C-plus or B-minus," said Davis, a 24-year-old from Norfolk, Virginia. "I can't really be too hard on myself if I don't stop these guys, because they have way more experience than me. But at the end of the day, I am beating them unanimously in every round.
"I just got to take my hat off for just doing the little things like that, sticking to my game plan, listening to my coaching and just having fun in there. It was great that I got the rounds in against a tough opponent like Patera. I needed that seasoning as I move forward in my career."