ATLANTIC CITY - Atlantic City lightweight Osnel Charles waited too long to execute his game plan Saturday night.
Charles controlled the second half of his six-round bout against Detroit slugger Chris Finley but couldn't overcome a pair of early knockdowns. As a result, Charles' eight-fight winning streak ended with a unanimous decision loss at Bally's Atlantic City on the Garrett Wilson-Andres Taylor undercard.
"I wasn't thinking out there," Charles said. "I fought his fight instead of fighting my own and it cost me."
Judges Debra Barnes (59-53), George Hill (58-54) and Julie Lederman (58-54) all scored the bout for Finley, as did The Press (57-55).
Charles' strategic errors were apparent in the first three rounds. Although Finley (5-4, 4 KOs) is known for his power, Charles (9-3, 1 KO) opted to swap punches with him in the first round. Finley launched a left hook and followed with a straight right that sent Charles reeling into the ropes, prompting referee Earl Morton to issue a standing eight-count.
Charles rallied in the second round, knocking out Finley's mouthpiece with a right hook, but Finley answered in the next round with two overhand rights that sent Charles to one knee for another knockdown.
"I was a little surprised that he tried to bang with me," Finley, 24, said. "I guess because we were in his hometown that he was trying to prove a point to his friends. He probably wasn't planning to do it, but his heart kicked in. I was a little worried that I might not get a decision because we were fighting in Atlantic City, but once I got the two knockdowns, I was feeling a lot better."
Charles, 27, began to heed the advice of trainer/manager Arnold Robbins and co-trainer Bill Johnson in the second half of the fight and fared much better. He slowed Finley with solid body shots and began to catch him with jabs and counter right hands.
Had he not waited until the fourth round to do so, his winning streak would still be intact.
"We knew Finley was going to be tough," Robbins said. "As the fight went on, Osnel started taking over. But tried to bang with him early and that was a mistake. He could have fought a little smarter early on."
The defeat halted what had been an amazing comeback for Charles, a native of Haiti who grew up in West Palm Beach, Fla., and moved to Atlantic City in 2001. He took up boxing five years ago after getting mugged while working at the Ocean One Mall (now the Pier at Caesars).
After debuting with a win in 2009, he suffered back-to-back losses.
"I learned from those losses, but the learning process is over for me," Charles said. "I'm disappointed in myself because this fight could have led to something bigger if I had won."
Also on the undercard, Atlantic City super-middleweight Gabby Pham (5-0, 2 KOs) returned from a 20-month layoff to earn a four-round, unanimous decision over Paterson ring rookie Michael Mitchell (0-1).
"It's a 'W,' so I'll take it," Pham said. "I've been in the gym since December preparing for this, so I didn't feel rusty at all. I felt perfect."
He didn't look it, however. A pair of head butts from the 34-year-old Mitchell produced a pair of nasty cuts on both of Pham's eyebrows that had blood trickling down his face during the last two rounds.
The lanky southpaw wasn't deterred. He kept Mitchell at bay with a sharp right jab and crisp left hooks.
"I didn't even know I was cut until they started dripping," Pham said. "It's part of the game."
In the main event, Philadelphia cruiserweight Garrett Wilson (13-5-1, 7 KOs) defended his USBA belt and won the vacant NABF title with a savage, 12th-round knockout over Andres Taylor (20-2-2, 7 KOs). Taylor was unconcious on the canvas for about a minute before getting to his feet.
In other bouts, Millville junior-welterweight Julio DeJesus (5-3-2, 3 KOs), a 36-year-old who works in contraband enforcement for Home-land Security in Philadelphia, was forced to settle for a four-round draw against Korey Sloane (2-3-1), of Philadelphia. Millville featherweight Joshua Reyes (2-0) posted a four-round, unanimous decision over Elvis Rodriguez (0-1), of Manchester, Conn.
Philadelphia Naim Nelson (5-0, 1 KO) stopped Dontre King (6-10-2, 2 KOs), of Cambridge, Md., in the fourth round via TKO. Nelson and King wore identical red-and-white trunks.
Punchlines: Atlantic City bantamweight prospect Qa'id Muhammad (6-0, 5 KOs) is back in action on Wednesday, when he faces Steven Johnson (7-4, 4 KOs), of Saint Joseph, Mo., at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. On Friday, Somers Point super-middleweight Isiah Seldon (6-0, 3 KOs) will take on Randy Campbell (3-9, 2 KOs), of Bowerston, Ohio, at the National Guard Armory in Philadelphia. Seldon's first six bouts were all in Atlantic City.
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