Thomas is a flat-footed, stand-up boxer with amazing reflexes and a jab that could batter down doors. "It's as close to a Sonny Liston jab as I've ever seen," said trainer Angelo Dundee, who trained Liston's conqueror, Ali, and who was brought in to work with Thomas against Witherspoon. "It's a hard jab, and he's going to win the title with it."
That proved one of Dundee's better predictions. After one round of testing, Thomas, who came in at 216 pounds, drilled the jab into Witherspoon's face and left it there for the next eight rounds; by the second round, the 217-pound Witherspoon was blinking furiously. "He's thumbing me," the champion complained to referee Richard Steele, who saw no wrongdoing. Three rounds later, Steele took a point away from Witherspoon for backhanding.
After building an overwhelming lead, Thomas coasted through the last three rounds. He has an almost nonchalant defense. He can study a punch coming at him and then, at the last instant, casually pull his head out of harm's way.
The scoring should have been academic. It wasn't. One judge, Hal Miller, who must have arrived around the 11th round, scored it even. The other two, Dalby Shirley (115-112) and Duane Ford (116-112), both had it for Thomas. Half an hour later, Thomas, holding an ice bag to his left eye, slumped in a chair in his large and silent dressing room. Nearby, Kathy, dressed in pink, talked quietly with a friend. Across the room young Pink leaned against a wall, the WBC belt draped across one shoulder. Lifting his head, the new champion studied his son. Then, with a small grin, he raised a fist and said, very softly, "Can you believe it? The championship belt."