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Friday, June 7, 2024

Odelia Ben Ephraim Drops Controversial Decision

Odelia "Thunder" Ben Ephraim suffered a controversial majority decision loss to Narymane Benloucif at Patinoire Municipale Jacques Raynaud in Blagnac, France tonight. The French featherweight title changes hands as a result of this stunning upset.

Benloucif won the early rounds by boxing and moving. She used her reach advantage to land straight shots with either hand. The combination of her potshots and movement threw Ben Ephraim off her rhythm for most of the first three rounds. Benloucif targeted the body with jabs and lead rights in the first round, an effective strategy that she abandoned too quickly.

In those early rounds, Odelia resembled a cat futilely chasing a mouse. The 31-year old Benloucif's stick and move boxing worked beautifully, but she lacked the power on her punches to discourage Ben Ephraim from catching her. Towards the end of the third round, "Thunder" launched a hellacious left uppercut that violently snapped back Benloucif's head. In many ways, that was the story of the fight.: Benloucif's higher work-rate against Ben Ephraim's harder punches.

That left uppercut proved to be the turning point. Though Benloucif still won the third, Ben Ephraim was spurred on by her success. The fourth was a case of Narymane landing a lot of straight shots upstairs while Odelia landed several hard rights. Benloucif even nodded her head in acknowledgement after one particularly good thunderous right hand by Ben Ephraim.

That fourth was a swing round. Ben Ephraim seemed to land enough hard rights to negate Benloucif's landed-punches advantage. The fifth, sixth, and seventh were clear rounds for the 24-year old. Ben Ephraim caught Benloucif's work on her gloves in the fifth while dramatically snapping the older fighter's head back in return. Odelia's typically hurtful combinations defined the sixth while left hooks early and damaging rights late characterized the seventh.

To Benloucif's credit, she fought back hard at the end of the seventh. She kept up the momentum into the eighth as her earlier form returned. She was impressive in the last round, especially after getting pummeled in the previous three rounds. Ben Ephraim had her moments in the eighth, but they weren't enough to take the final stanza.

At the end of the contest, Benloucif's eyes, particularly the left, were swollen. Unmarked, Odelia has had more red on her face during one of her painting sessions than she did after this fight. If boxing was scored by overall damage inflicted, Ben Ephraim was the clear winner.

But it isn't.

Odelia's team felt they were robbed as Christophe Pinto inexplicably scored the bout 78-74 for Benloucif. Vincent Dupas had it 77-75 for the new champion. Like The Jewish Boxing Blog, Sebastien Turboust had it even at 76.
If 10-8 rounds were used more liberally, Ben Ephraim would have deserved to win, because she won the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds more convincingly than Benloucif won her rounds. Though that is why the ten-point must system was created, no jurisdictions judge fights that way unfortunately.

Hopefully, Ben Ephraim will be offered a rematch. It was a close competitive fight that reasonably could have gone 5-3 either way. Odelia will need to get inside quicker if there is a rematch. Her pressure wore down Benloucif by the fifth round, but by then she had already given away at least three rounds. She didn't throw her jab enough and didn't move her head off the line. Though Benloucif's punches weren't hurting Odelia, the judges were watching her get hit too frequently. Ultimately, Benloucif fought the fight of her life while Ben Ephraim fought to her usual ability only occasionally.

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