Kali Reis continues her late career surge and is now one win away from fully unifying the junior welterweight division.
The 35-year-old from Providence outlasted Montreal’s Jessica Camara to defend her WBA and IBO titles while adding the vacant belt in a ten-round, split decision win. Judge Dave DeJonge (96-94) favored the visiting Camara, with his score overruled by Tom Schreck (97-93) and Martha Tremblay (97-93) who ruled in favor of the streaking Reis in their DAZN televised opener Friday evening from SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Much of the action was spent at close quarters, both looking to immediately make their presence felt. Camara enjoyed success in the early portions of rounds one and two, connecting with right hands. Reis was the stronger closer in both frames, ending round one with a left hook on the inside and scoring with a straight right hand late in round two.
Reis put her height and reach advantage to good use in round three. Camara was short with her combinations, while Reis was effective with her jab and left hook to the body.
Camara enjoyed her best sequence of the fight to that point early in round four. The Montreal-based contender connected with her right hand along with left hooks over the top. Reis was able to readjust her defense, though still unable to slip Camara’s straight right hand.
Reis regained control in round five, landing several clean punches upstairs. Camara struggled to slip Reis’ long right hand, including a flush shot in the closing seconds of the round.
Momentum swung back in the challenger’s favor in round six. Reis stood directly in front of Camara, who landed a right hand over the top and a body shot at close range. Reis pawed with her jab, which Camara bobbed and weaved before exploding with a whipping shot to the champion’s chin late in the frame.
Reis drew a rise out of the partisan crowd after connecting with left hooks. Camara refused to back down, staying in the pocket and taking any opening that the defending titlist would provide on the inside. Reis worked the body in round eight, enjoying success with looping right hands downstairs.
Camara continued to have her say, particularly with her right hand. Both boxers were cheated out of the final ten seconds of a competitive round eight due to an error at the timekeeper’s table, simultaneously sounding the bell and the ten-second warning to the bewilderment of referee Arthur Mercante Jr.
Reis and Camara traded in the closing seconds of round nine. Reis drilled Camara with a straight right hand, only to taste a left hook right before the bell. Camara carried over the momentum into the tenth and final round, though it didn’t last any longer than the opening seconds.
Reis rode out the early storm to put together an emphatic finish, slamming home left hooks and long right hands. Time was called to allow the ringside doctor to examine a cut over Camara’s left eye, with Reis going right back on the attack once action resumed. Reis snapped back Camara’s head with unanswered shots upstairs, with Camara somehow remaining upright and having the awareness to land one final left hook before the bell to end the fight.
The wide scores in favor of Reis were not well-received even in her home region, with Camara having earned the respect of the New England crowd. Nevertheless, the defeat ends the Cinderella story enjoyed by Camara (8-3, 0KOs), who advanced to the title stage following the most notable win of her career. The opportunity came six months after her upset win over former featherweight titlist Heather Hardy this past May in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Meanwhile, the good fortunes continue to roll for Reis (19-7-1, 5KOs), who has won a career-best six in a row. The latest feat places her halfway towards the goal of becoming undisputed junior welterweight champion.
It will only require one more win to realize that dream, though in a daunting task versus WBC/IBF champ Chantelle Cameron (15-0, 8KOs). The unbeaten Brit was ringside for the event, to scout out her next foe following her own title unifying win in a ten-round decision over Mary McGee just three weeks ago in London.
Cameron’s win over McGee helped kick off a Matchroom Boxing-branded junior welterweight tournament. Plans are being finalized to stage the undisputed junior welterweight championship in the first part of 2022.
Reis-Camara served as the televised opener of a four title fight show. Headlining the evening, two-divisions and reigning WBO middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade (30-0, 18KOs)—Reis’ longtime, childhood friend from Providence—faces Ireland’s Jason Quigley (19-1, 14KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox