Delante ‘Tiger’ Johnson fended off a stiff challenge from the biggest puncher he has faced to date.

The 2020 Olympic quarterfinalist for Team USA stood in the pocket for much of his eight-round, split decision victory over Mexico’s Jimerr Espinosa. It made for a much closer fight than his handlers would have preferred.

Espinosa won 77-75 on one card, overruled by scores of 79-73 and 78-74 for Johnson in their entertaining welterweight battle Saturday evening from Charles F. Dodge City Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Johnson entered the fight on the heels of his closest pro outing, an eight-round majority decision over Ricardo Quiroz less than three months ago in Corpus Christi, Texas. The 25-year-old Cleveland native was briefly buzzed in the fight but not spooked over the prospect of facing a knockout artist.

History nearly repeated itself when Espinosa (15-2, 14KOs) clipped Johnson with a right hand. Johnson was in control of the fight to that point, but with Espinosa always right there in range to land his own power shots.

Johnson brushed off the blow and created just enough distance to disallow Espinosa to land anything else of consequence.

Body punching was key for Johnson to power his way to his latest win. He used it as means to work his way inside, which set up power shots upstairs. Espinosa’s best moments came with his overhand right, though Johnson showed a sturdy chin to survive the blows and avoid an upset as he advanced to 11-0 (5KOs).

Damian Knyba went the eight-round distance for the second straight time. The unbeaten Polish heavyweight settled for a lopsided unanimous decision win over Michael Polite Coffie. Scores were 80-72, 80-72 and 79-73 for Kynba in a modestly paced affair.

Knyba was extended all eight rounds in a similarly scored decision victory over Helaman Olguin on June 10 in New York City. An opportunity for a knockout victory was there versus Coffie, an eight-year U.S, Marine and once-promising prospect who has been stopped three times in his past six fights.

The threat of an early night never surfaced, however. Knyba—a 27-year-old prospect from Wudzyn, Poland—spent the early portion of the fight probing with his jab and with right hands behind the weapon. Coffie (13-5, 10Kos) was sparing with his punch output but landed with conviction on the rare moments he came out of his defensive shell.

Knyba picked up the pace in the later rounds, as did Coffie in round seven. It quickly reverted to a one-sided showcase in the eighth and final round as Knyba (13-0, 7KOs) was content to get in rounds for his latest win.

Both bouts aired on ESPN+ as part of a six-fight preliminary undercard. Headlining the main ESPN card, double Olympic Gold medalist and current WBO featherweight titlist Robeisy Ramirez (13-1, 8KOs) attempts his second defense versus Guadalajara’s Rafael Espinoza (21-0, 18KOs). 

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox