Jason Quigley retained his NABF middleweight crown via an untidy unanimous decision over the tough Freddy Hernandez.
By Chris McNulty, ringside at Fantasy Springs. Pictures by Valentin Romero
Quigley took wide verdicts of 98-92 (x2) and 99-91 on the scorecards to move to 15-0 and make a successful first defence of the NABF strap.
39-year-old Hernandez gave Quigley a tough ten rounds and there was audible surprise, even boos from some of Hernandez’s supporters, at the margin on the cards.
There were times when Quigley appeared to sense a big finishing shot was looming, but Hernandez made sure it went the distance.
It was scrappy and was certainly the toughest test of Quigley’s pro career.
Hernandez dragged the contest into a real brawl during the middle rounds and there were some hand-on-mouth moments during those moments when the Mexican slugger asked questions.
But Quigley bit down and regained control during the final couple of rounds.
Quigley sustained a cut on the outside edge of his left eye while a clash of heads in the fifth had the blood seeping from Hernandez.
The two slugged it out for long spells before Quigley jabbed through the last round to secure his latest pro win.
Quigley saw a possible fight for the WBA world middleweight belt against title holder Ryota Murata taken away when the governing body ordered the Japanese fight meet Mandatory challenger, Rob Brant.
He arrived here ranked inside the top ten of both the WBC and WBA and will hope to have improved those rankings after a tough win.
It was Quigley’s sixth outing at Fantasy Springs having won each of his previous five – including the March 2017 defeat of Tapia.
Quigley walked to the ring to a lively remix of Óró, sé do bheatha bhaile.
Backed by a sizeable support in the arena, including many who had made the trip from Ireland, Quigley was keen to lay down a mark.
After shattering his right hand in beating Tapia – when he fought for eight full rounds in spite of the injury – Quigley had a full year of inactivity.
In his return bout, in Boston on Easter Saturday, Quigley handed Daniel Rosario the first stoppage of his career with a sixth round KO.
During his year out, Quigley switched trainer and aligned with the Ingle gym in Sheffield.
This was his second fight under the Ingle banner. With Dominic Ingle in Boston with another of his fighters, Kid Galahad, Quigley’s corner was manned by John Ingle and Simon Burgan.
Hernandez came in as a 43-fight veteran who had fought for the WBC world welterweight title in 2010.
A first round loss to Andre Berto that night in Las Vegas dented Hernandez, though a notable win over Alfredo Angulo in 2016 was a reminder that he was to be taken seriously.
Hernandez had lost on 8 of his last 13 visits to the ring, but showed here why he has a tough reputation.
But Quigley got the job done and the title defended.