Heavyweight Dillian Whyte earned a hard-fought, majority points win over American Jermaine Franklin on Saturday to help repair some of the damage to his career caused by a stoppage defeat to Tyson Fury earlier this year.
The 34-year-old Whyte (29-3, 19 KOs) earned scores of 116-112 on two of the judges' scorecards while the other scored it a 115-115 draw.
Whyte's power shots and output in the later rounds proved decisive against the 29-year-old Franklin (21-1, 14 KOs) at the OVO Arena in Wembley, London.
"He was undefeated and he gave me a good fight," Whyte said. "I'm trying to upgrade my style. I could probably have been a bit more active and thrown a few more shots but it was a new coach [Buddy McGirt], and new style."
After knockout defeats to WBC world heavyweight champion Fury in April and since-retired Alexander Povetkin in August 2020, Whyte could not afford a third setback in four fights.
The Jamaica-born, London-based Whyte improved as the fight went on to put himself in contention for a rematch against Anthony Joshua, the former WBA, IBF and WBO champion.
Joshua, who has suffered back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk in world title fights, is the biggest, most realistic next fight for Whyte. Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn said Joshua's next opponent for March will be announced next week and that he hopes a rematch with Whyte can happen either in March or next summer.
Franklin, who was participating in his first fight outside of the United States, was upset with the decision.
"I felt like I got robbed," said Franklin, who is from Saginaw, Michigan. "I won the earlier rounds and I did enough to get the decision. I had a seven-week camp and I did what I could and I'm down for a rematch if they give it to me. I proved a lot of people wrong."
Franklin was out of action for two and a half years until he returned to boxing in May and stopped Rodney Moore. During his time away from the boxing ring, Franklin had to file for bankruptcy and get another job.
After this display, he could be in line for more big paydays in the ring.
Franklin made a good start and landed some good counter punches in the first round. His three-punch combinations were too sharp for Whyte in the second round. By the third round, however, Whyte was landing some heavier punches as he slowly settled into the fight.
Franklin slowed for a few rounds and Whyte dug in some big body shots in the fifth round, but the American then produced some good work in the sixth, when he caught Whyte with a chopping right hook.
The fight swung both ways as Whyte was drawn into a much harder fight than was expected. At the end of the ninth round, Franklin rocked Whyte with a right to the temple.
Whyte lacked urgency in many of the rounds that allowed Franklin to capitalize with his quick hands, but Whyte was better in Round 10, and Franklin did well not to go down from a huge right hand at the bell.
Whyte needed a big last round and produced it. In the last 10 seconds, Whyte finally troubled Franklin when he sent him tottering backwards onto the ropes from a left hook. There was not enough time for Whyte to follow up and capitalize on his best moment of the fight.
On the undercard, Ipswich's Fabio Wardley (15-0, 14 KOs), 27, absorbed some big shots early on to win the British heavyweight title with a third round stoppage win over Nathan Gorman (19-2, 13 KOs). Wardley dropped Gorman twice in the second round, before flooring Gorman again the third.