ATLANTIC CITY — Pleasantville super-middleweight Gabriel Pham made the most of his rare underdog status Thursday.
The 30-year-old earned the biggest victory of his career, a six-round unanimous decision over formerly unbeaten Jaba Khositashvili (4-1, 2 KOs) at Ocean Casino Resort.
“I love being the underdog because it gives me a chance to prove people wrong,” Pham said. “It gives me extra fire, extra fuel.”
Judges Debra Barnes and Lawrence Layton both scored the fight 59-54. Anthony Lundy had Pham winning 60-53, as did The Press.
Khositashvili, a native of the Republic of Georgia now living in Philadelphia, was considered the favorite since he is a member of Golden Boy Promotions’ stable of boxers.
About a dozen fans with Georgia flags draped over their shoulders chanted “Jabo! Jabo! Jabo!” throughout the bout. Pham (11-1, 5 KOs) smiled and popped Khositashvili with sharp right-left combinations en route to his fifth straight win.
“I heard them,” Pham said. “Whenever I heard them yelling ‘Jabo,’ I would throw a jab. It worked pretty well for me.”
Pham, who is 6-foot-4, used his 8-inch height advantage and reach to dictate the pace of the fight.
He caught Khositashvili rushing in and landed a straight left in the first round that caused Khositashvili’s knee to touch the canvas, prompting referee Harvey Dock to issue a standing eight count.
Pham maintained the same strategy for the next few rounds, greeting Khositashvili’s aggressiveness with a steady stream of 1-2 combos, straight lefts and uppercuts.
“I’ve been taller than almost everyone I’ve fought, so I’m used to it,” Pham said. “I just listened to my corner and used my experience in there.”
Barnegat super-lightweight Dan Murray (5-2, 0 KOs) also won.
The 27-year-old opened the card with a four-round unanimous decision over Leonardo Kenon (3-6, 1 KO), of Quincy, Florida.
“It was a good fight,” Murray said. “I had him hurt a couple times, but I was thinking too much in there and wound up hesitating too much. I’m still pleased with the win. It’s a learning experience every time I get in the ring.”
In the main event, Mexican middleweight Elias Espadas (18-4, 13 KOs) suffered a nasty cut over his left eye from an accidental head butt in the third round against D’Mitrius Ballard (20-0, 13 KOs), resulting in a no-decision.
In other bouts, Bronx, New York, welterweight Eddie Gomez (23-3, 13 KOs) won with a second-round TKO over Saul Corral (30-14, 20 KOs), of Douglas, Arizona.
Welterweight George Rincon (7-0, 4 KOs), of Carrollton, Texas, knocked out Greg Young Jr. (4-2, 1 Ko) of Hoover, Alabama, in the fourth round. Washington, D.C., welterweight Mike Reed (25-2, 14 KOs) took an eight-round unanimous decision over Angel Hernandez (15-14-2, 9 KOs), of McAllen, Texas.
Franchon Crews-Dezurn (5-1, 1 KOs) notched a fifth-round TKO over Kayla Williams (0-3-1), of New Iberia, Louisiana.
Thursday’s card served as the kickoff to the third annual Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend.
John Brown (Atlantic City), Virgil Hill (Galloway Township) and Kevin Watts (Pleasantville) are among the inductees, along with former manager/promoter Bob Goodman (Mays Landing).
Boxing returns to Atlantic City on July 20 when Millville’s Rising Star Promotions holds a card at Showboat. Millville junior-middleweight Thomas LaManna (27-2-1, 9 KOs) and Atlantic City middleweight Isiah Seldon (13-2-1, 4 KOs) are scheduled to be on the card.
Rising Star plans an Aug. 3 card at Showboat.