Vinnie Pazienza, bleeding from cuts above and below a nearly closed left eye, rallied to earn a 15-round unanimous decision over Greg Haugen and win the International Boxing Federation lightweight title yesterday in Providence, R.I.
"I won on guts," said Pazienza, who has a 23-0 record. "I had my nose banged up early and I couldn't see out of my left eye from the 13th round on, but I wasn't going to be stopped today. I'm for real. I won on heart today."
All three judges favored Pazienza, whose nose bled profusely from the second round on. But many observers gave the edge to Haugen in the first defense of the title he won last December.
Judges Richard Bays of Miami, Clark Sammartino of Providence and Keith MacDonald of Carson City, Nev., all scored the fight 144-141.
Haugen withstood Pazienza's taunts before the opening bell and in the early rounds and landed the cleaner punches until the challenger from nearby Cranston landed enough heavy blows in the final two rounds to pull out the decision.
Pazienza, who weighed 134 1/2 pounds, one-quarter pound more than Haugen, shook the defending champion with a long left lead midway through the 12th round and then had Haugen holding on after a flurry of punches with both hands. Pazienza landed another long left but Haugen came back with a left-right combination at the bell.
In the 14th, Pazienza was wild at the start and Haugen calmly picked his spots. However, Pazienza, fighting with impaired vision, hung tough.
The loss was the first for Haugen, 26, a native of Auburn, Wash., who fights out of Las Vegas. Haugen is 19-1-1.
In a scheduled 10-round preliminary, former Olympic heavyweight champion Henry Tillman of Los Angeles stopped veteran Woody Clark of Fayetteville, N.C., at 1:59 of the seventh round. Tillman is 15-2 with 11 knockouts as a pro.