In a fight that didn't mean much in terms of earning a title shot or losing a title, Takoma Park native Sharmba Mitchell earned a 10-round majority decision victory over Vince Phillips tonight.
The victory for Mitchell, in front of 1,200 at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Event Center, allows him to ask for a title shot against the 140-pound undisputed champion Kostya Tszyu.
However, Tszyu will first fight Jesse James Leija on Jan. 18.
Promoters for this 10-round fight tried to get the International Boxing Federation to sanction it as a title eliminator. The IBF denied the request.
Mitchell (50-3-0, 29 knockouts) a former WBA 140-pound champion, was technically sound in the early portions of the fight, but Phillips (44-7-1, 32 KOs) rallied in the last four rounds to make it close.
Judge Gerald Ritter scored it 95-95. But two judges, Joe Miller (99-91) and Peter Trematerra (96-94) gave Mitchell the decision. When the decision was announced the crowd gave it a standing ovation.
"I have a great amount of respect for Phillips," Mitchell said. "I was surprised at the scoring, I thought I won it [unanimously]. Phillips put up a great fight. It was no cakewalk and I don't want any cakewalks. I wasn't looking to fight his fight and that was on the inside. When I fought my fight, on the outside, I thought I controlled it."
The fight showed both fighters slipping and missing punches throughout. Phillips landed the harder shots in the late rounds as Mitchell tried to back away from his opponent's power.
Mitchell took the lead with a good outside attack and by staying on the outside to keep away from Phillips's inside shots.
Last week, Mitchell said his injured left knee, which he hurt before a February 2001 loss to Tszyu -- a fight that cost him his WBA belt -- was about 80 percent. But tonight it looked nearly 100 percent as Mitchell stayed on his toes and bounced around the ring.
"I want Tszyu," Mitchell said. "Tell him to fight me with two legs, not one. I was beating him with one leg the last time."
Phillips did land good hard shots on the inside and he also countered well, but Mitchell's lead, established in the early rounds, was too much to overcome.
"I thought I won the fight," Phillips said. "He gave me some good movement and some body shots. But I'm 39 years old fighting young men and holding my own."
In the early rounds, Mitchell continued to show the speed that has made him one of the more attractive fighters in the 140-pound division. He stunned Phillips with a right-left combination in Round 3 and showed good balance by moving around the ring. Phillips missed several punches on the outside as Mitchell kept his distance. Mitchell would land shots on the inside then move away to set up his jab.
On the main undercard, 2000 U.S. Olympian Jeff Lacy won a 12-round unanimous decision to win the World Boxing Council Continental America's 168-pound title over Ross Thompson.
Lacy (12-0, 10 knockouts) becomes the second fighter from the Olympic team to win a boxing title. Brian Viloria was the first to do so when he defeated Javier Lagos to win the North American Boxing Federation 112-pound title in August.