Mike Plania proved his handlers correct Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
The previously unknown underdog upset Joshua Greer Jr. by majority decision in the main event of a five-fight card ESPN televised from MGM Grand Conference Center. The patient, powerful Plania dropped Greer with left hooks in the first and sixth rounds, and the Filipino fighter fended off Greer’s late rally to win their 10-round junior featherweight fight on two scorecards.
Judges Tim Cheatham (96-92) and Patricia Morse-Jarman (97-91) scored the fight for Plania. Judge Dave Moretti had it even (94-94)
The Philippines’ Plania (24-1, 12 KOs) took this fight on a little less than four weeks’ notice. Chicago’s Greer (22-2-2, 12 KOs) turned down other opponents before picking Plania, a junior featherweight contender who dropped down two pounds to fight Greer at a contracted catch weight of 120 pounds.
“This will change my life,” Plania told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “I’ve been dreaming for this since I was kid, and now God gave me a chance.”
Plania initially thought Tuesday night that he would win by knockout because he sent Greer to the canvas with a left hook barely a minute into their fight.
“I thought that he wouldn’t stand up anymore,” Plania said. “But I was still focused and kept relaxed because you never know – anything can happen in boxing.”
Greer got his second wind in the final three rounds, but Plania still snapped his 19-fight winning streak. Prior to Tuesday night, Greer’s lone loss was a four-round majority decision defeat to Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) in December 2015.
Greer entered the fight in prime position to land a bantamweight title shot either later this year or early in 2021. He is the number one contender for WBO bantamweight champion Johnriel Casimero’s 118-pound title and the IBF’s second-ranked challenger for Naoya Inoue’s crown.
The 23-year-old Plania, who is from Manny Pacquiao’s hometown of General Santos City, extended his winning streak to nine by pulling off undoubtedly the biggest win of his five-year pro career. He has lost only to former WBA/IBO bantamweight champ Juan Carlos Payano (21-3, 9 KOs), who beat him by unanimous decision in a 10-rounder in March 2018.
According to CompuBox’s unofficial figures, Plania out-landed Greer by 23 punches overall (119-of-451 to 96-of-426). CompuBox counted 99-of-290 power punches for Plania, 22 more than Greer (77-of-227), and credited the winner with landing one more jab than Greer (20-of-161 to 19-of-199).
Despite dropping Greer twice, it was Plania who literally held on for the victory. Plania tied up Greer numerous times in the 10th round, when it was obvious that the exhausted Plania was merely trying to make it to the final bell.
“I was tired,” Plania said, “but not too tired. I just adjusted my game plan.”
An aggressive Greer continued coming back in the ninth round. Plania appeared tired at the point and was simply attempting to fend off a re-energized Greer.
Plania held Greer several times in that ninth round and fought off his back foot throughout those three minutes.
Greer got inside on Plania in the eighth round and landed several short, hard shots. Plania had his hands down and didn’t move his head, though he didn’t appear hurt at any point in that round.
Plania spent much of the seventh round digging to Greer’s body. Greer landed a flush left hook to Plania’s chin with about 20 seconds to go in the seventh round.
Another quick left hook by Plania sent Greer to the canvas just before the sixth round ended. Greer easily beat Weeks’ count, just as he did during the first round, and he assured the veteran referee he was OK.
Plania missed with a left hook up top, but quickly followed with a right to Greer’s body early in the sixth round. A counter right hand by Plania grazed Greer’s chin with about 1:15 remaining in the sixth round.
Plania landed a left hook up top, but then hit Greer with a low left that caused a brief break in the action just before the midway mark of the fifth round. A quick left hook by Plania caught Greer with 2:04 remaining in the fourth round.
Greer used his legs throughout the third round and tried to avoid Plania’s power. Neither fighter landed impactful punches in that round.
After suffering a knockdown during the first round, Greer had some success early in the second round. Plania nailed him with another left hook with just under a minute to go in the second round, though.
Plania’s lead left hook knocked Greer to the canvas just 1:10 into the fight. A stunned Greer smiled when he got up, but clearly was caught off guard by Plania’s power.
Greer kept his distance for much of the remainder of the first round and tried to work off his jab. Plania landed another chopping right hand to the side of Greer’s head just before the opening round ended.