Whyte works with the most points to win over Franklin
Heavyweight Dillian Whyte scored a majority points victory over American Jermaine Franklin in London.
Whyte, 34, nearly stopped Franklin in the closing seconds after 12 mostly stale and uneventful rounds.
Two judges gave Whyte the nod with cards of 116-112, while the third saw a 115-115 tie.
Anthony Joshua was watching ringside as eyes turned to a potential rematch between the bitter British rivals in the New Year.
Whyte had 19 knockouts on his record before his meeting with Franklin and there were high hopes of an explosive comeback at Wembley’s OVO Arena.
The Jamaican-born fighter was in action for the first time since being stopped by WBC champion Tyson Fury at Wembley Stadium in April.
But Whyte set the tone for a slow-paced fight from the first bell, preferring to feel Franklin out rather than push for an early success.
It was the 29-year-old American who was throwing most of the punches and did some fleeting damage to Whyte in the third with a quick right and left combination.
Franklin landed another long right in the fourth, with almost nothing of note from Whyte.
Just as a snail’s pace seemed to be established, Whyte fired a flurry of punches in a welcome display of intent.
The fifth round, and the entire fight really, followed the same pattern.
Whyte would momentarily inject some fire into the fray, pushing Franklin back, only to take his foot off the gas.
After an opening without meaningful exchanges, Franklin invited Whyte to him. The crowd, now mostly talking amongst themselves, tried to urge the two fighters on.
Whyte was then tagged with a right hand from Franklin, but again he seemed unconcerned about any power his opponent might have.
He just smiled at Franklin and slowed down again.
The crowd’s cheers fell on deaf ears as Whyte thought he was ahead on the scorecards and seemed content to walk to the final bell.
Whatever plan he was trying to execute almost paid off in the closing seconds of the 10th round when he landed a big right on Franklin.
The American shuddered, but did not go down. Hopes rose in the arena for a late knockout, but were quickly dashed as Whyte and Franklin returned to their previous pace for the final two rounds.
Whyte, however, finished the fight on the front foot, hurting Franklin by landing his first clean left hand.
His previously undefeated opponent stumbled backwards against the ropes, but the bell rescued Franklin.
It was a rare performance from Whyte, who has built a career on his crowd-pleasing fights and explosive nature in and out of the ring.
But with Joshua watching over and his rematch some seven years away, perhaps Whyte will feel he has blown his chances of convincing his long-term foe of no harm in facing him again.