Stepping up his tempo, Eubank did the most impressive work from then onwards (I scored the contest narrowly in his favour) and gained a draw. Harry Gibbs, of Britain, scored the contest 115-113 in favour of Eubank. Carol Castellano, of Las Vegas, scored it 114-113 to Nigel Benn and the other American judge, Chuck Hassett, had it even at 114 to 114. A crucial factor in all this was that Benn had a point deducted by the referee, Larry O'Connell, for persistently hitting low.
Upon hearing the announcement, Benn threw up his hands in disgust and immediately left the ring, believing he had been robbed. Later, at a press conference, he said: 'I hold one man responsible for this.' Benn made it clear by implication that he was referring to Barry Hearn, one of the three co-promoters, who has an alliance with Eubank. 'I don't mean Don (King) or Frank (Warren),' he hurried to add, nodding to where they sat alongside him. 'Chris has got away with a few things like this,' Benn grumbled.
Hearn showed no signs of annoyance when Benn's remarks were relayed to him. In fact, the former snooker impresario smiled. 'I don't consider myself an expert, but I had it very close going into the final round,' he said. Far from taking exception to Benn's remarks, Hearn appeared to find them amusing. 'The officials were appointed by the WBC,' he said. 'I don't have any power over these things,' he said, adding as a joke, 'I wish I did.'
For the third time in recent weeks, a world title fight ended without a winner and this got King going on his favourite theme. 'If the scores were announced after every round we wouldn't get these decisions,' he gospelled. 'The public deserve to be made aware of what is going on.' It is difficult to see how this would have affected the outcome on Saturday but King never misses an opportunity for ignition.
Because neither man ever went ahead enough to be given a clear advantage, it was a difficult fight to score. The former world champions, Barry McGuigan and Jim Watt, and the promoter, Mickey Duff, found nothing in the decision to perplex them, Duff admitting that he could not recall giving so many even rounds.
Some members of the audience of more than 40,000 felt Benn had done enough. Others voted for Eubank. From the general reaction, few felt cheated by a draw.
In truth, if the contest unquestionably was exciting it was never of the highest order. There was none of the ferocity that marked their first meeting in Birmingham three years ago, the impression being that both have improved enough since then to expose each other's limitations. Becoming less reckless, Benn is better able to pace a contest, but still punches off-balance and often missed badly, as did Eubank.
Certainly, they showed nothing to disturb Michael Nunn, who holds the World Boxing Association version of the super- middleweight championship and is promoted by King, who is the power behind an attempt to unify the title. 'I don't think either of them would give me much trouble,' Nunn said. On television before Saturday's contest, the International Boxing Federation champion, James Toney, could be heard saying something similar but more rudely. As for Benn and Eubank hooking up again, this would be fine by both of them but only by Benn if Hearn is not involved in the promotion. He did not mention Hearn's name but undoubtedly he meant him. 'I thought I won by three rounds,' he repeated.
Eubank was all sweetness and light, posing to emphasise that he had not taken any severe punishment and was more or less unmarked. 'At the end I suggested to Nigel that he should forget the animosity,' he said. 'I respect him as a fighter and I don't have any bad feelings towards him as a man, but he turned his back on me.'
In the planned order of things, Benn is required to make a defence of the WBC title against Henry Wharton, the British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion who is managed by Duff. Duff would like this to go ahead without King's co-operation. 'I shall have to get together with the Duffer,' King chortled.
On the evidence of Saturday, Benn and Eubank should pay careful attention to the future. Nunn? Toney? The money would be good, but, as somebody put it, they would be better off staying at home.
WHO SAID WHAT AFTERWARDS: FIGHTING TALK FROM THE PROTAGONISTS AT OLD TRAFFORD
'I will fight him again. I feel I own a part of his WBC title and he owns a part of my WBO title.
I'm giving Nigel Benn the proper respect. I take my hat off to him. I feel I fought as well as I could.
I didn't think he would be that formidable. I thought he would have deteriorated in the three years since the last fight.
I thought I would box more. I thought I would knock him out, I thought his legs would go. But he was very strong, very durable and took some good shots from me. It was the sort of fight which perhaps nobody deserved to win.
I told him this was pugilism at the highest level and he should conduct himself better.'
'I was hard done by. I was ripped off. Even accounting for the deducted point, I thought I won by three rounds. What do I have to do to win? I've tried to please everyone. He's had close decisions all along.
Sure Eubank threw good shots, but most of the time I was rolling, slipping and weaving. I agree with Don King. There should have been another round to decide the fight. I'll be ready to fight Henry Wharton in December, then I'll fight Michael Nunn - and I'll get a fair decision.
I respect Eubank as a champion and a boxer . . . I respect all boxers. But I don't like him as a man. He's trying to make me like him, but I never will. I don't like the way he conducts himself outside the ring.'
----------------------------------------------------------------- HOW THE JUDGES SCORED IT ----------------------------------------------------------------- Benn Eubank Harry Gibbs (GB) 113 115 Carol Castellano (US) 114 113 Chuck Hassett (US) 114 114 -----------------------------------------------------------------
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