It was that age-old battle between the squat, bowling-ball-of-a-man and the taller dude with arms as long as a giraffe’s neck.
In a rugged back-and-forth scrap with plenty of close, competitive rounds, Kassi proved to be the toughest test yet for undefeated heavyweight prospect, who still managed to walk away with a hard-fought unanimous decision at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
In the opening round, Breazeale worked behind his jab, pressing the action as Kassi circled the ring, looking to elude his opponent’s Stretch Armstrong-worthy reach.
But Breazeale largely abandoned his jab for a time after that, instead loading up on hard right hands that allowed Kassi to get inside, where he was able to do his best work, strafing his taller opponent's jaw with uppercuts as they fought as if trapped in the world’s sweatiest phone booth.
Somewhere, a dentist must've been wringing his hands in anticipation of so many fillings jarred loose.
Kassi fought on his heels, moving backward most of the night, but still landing good shots intermittently as Breazeale came forward, firing rights, some of which found their mark and plenty of which didn’t.
“It's probably the most frustrated I've ever been in a fight, especially going 10 rounds,” said Breazeale, who previously had never had to go more than eight rounds. “When you can't figure a guy out by the third or fourth round, you start shooting shots and looking for things to land. I landed some good right hands, but I just couldn't put two pieces together. It was one strong shot after another, never two and three.”
But in Round 6, Breazeale began to pump his jab more, which paid immediate dividends as he was able to disrupt Kassi’s charge.
In Round 8, Breazeale landed withering body shots to Kassi’s midsection, slowing his opponent down a bit—at least momentarily.
After plenty of heated back-and-forth action in the final two rounds, Breazeale emerged with a somewhat surprisngly decisive victory (97-93, 98-92, 100-90) in an entertaining tussle between two men of different statures but equal grit.
Despite the lopsided scores, Kassi felt he did enough to get the victory.
“I slipped more of his punches, and he couldn't really hit me,” he said. “I was blocking. He was desperate to get me, but I was just showing him I was the better fighter.”
Breazeale acknowledged that he could have put forth a superior effort, even acknowleding he's still a work in progress—and he had plenty to work with on this night.
“I’ve got a lot to learn,” Breazeale said. “I’m still a young guy in this game. Little by little, every fight I take something from it. I'm going to take a lot from this one.”
For full coverage of Breazeale vs Kassi, visit our fight page.