- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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It’s a pretty good bet that even the most hardcore boxing fan had not heard of middleweight Tureano Johnson before his fantastic fight with contender Curtis Stevens on Friday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
Johnson (14-1, 10 KOs) was stepping up in competition to face his first quality opponent and he and Stevens put on an blazing fight, one that Johnson mostly dominated until Stevens (27-4, 20 KOs), who is a terrific puncher, rallied to stop Johnson in the 10th and final round.
Johnson was ahead on all three scorecards -- 89-82, 89-92 and 87-84 -- when Stevens ultimately got the comeback TKO victory with 51 seconds left. It was, however, a bit of a quick stoppage by referee Gary Rosato and left Johnson immediately protesting the call in the ring.
“It was unfortunate that I didn't get the win. Curtis Stevens is a great fighter,” Johnson said later. “The stoppage was an unfair one but I accept it. I worked hard and I won every round. I worked hard for this. I want a rematch immediately."
If this fight doesn’t have rematch written all over it what does?
"I wanted to come out tonight and give the fans an all-action war,” Johnson said. “My game plan was to come right at Stevens and bring the fight to him. I did exactly what I wanted to do and I was winning the fight convincingly.
“I have a great chin. When he landed that left hook in the final round, I was rocked, but I was ready to continue. I was robbed by the referee and the fans should rally behind me to command an instant rematch. My message to Curtis Stevens is you better not run from the rematch, because if you do, the fans will know you're a fraud."
Stevens, while not committing to a rematch, knew he did not fight at his best.
“I didn't set it up the way I was supposed to set it up,” he said. “He was smothering me. He did what he was supposed to do. He came in here and smothered me."
Johnson’s next fight may come July 11 on promoter Gary Shaw’s ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” card, but Shaw also wants to make an eventual rematch.
"I'm outraged that my fighter, Tureano Johnson, was robbed of his ability to finish the fight,” Shaw said. “Johnson clearly could have continued on. Stevens is nothing. Johnson was winning every round. I'm going to protest this premature stoppage and demand an immediate rematch. To rob a fighter like Johnson got robbed is preposterous. With what Johnson gave the fans, he should have at least been able to finish the fight. I'm beside myself with this decision."
Shaw’s protest will go nowhere and he is laying it on a bit thick but a rematch is possible.
“Johnson, your stock just went way up,” said Main Events chief executive Kathy Duva, who promotes Stevens. “I would love to schedule a rematch on HBO.”