Boxing: Benn keeps his skills intact to win on points

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NIGEL BENN retained his World Boxing Council super-middleweight title with a comfortable points decision against the Italian Maura Galvano at the Scottish Exhibition Centre last night.

Benn was deprived of the knock-out he had hoped for, but should draw immense satisfaction from the manner in which he dealt with an elusive, thoroughly awkward opponent.

The contest almost never took place, the champion having sustained a twisted ankle which had hampered his final preparations and left matters in jeopardy up to yesterday. Perhaps this served to make him even angrier than usual. Benn has always possessed a pre- fight snarl, but the self-styled Dark Destroyer surpassed himself with the menacing looks he cast at his rival during the ring introductions.

Nor was this hostility artificially manufactured. When they first met in October in Italy, Benn's third-round stoppage triumph was only confirmed after a cynical attempt by the Italian camp to argue for a technical draw which would have left Galvano with the title. Benn spoke repeatedly of his desire for retribution during the days leading up to the bout and, while such talk is commonplace in this business, there could be no mistaking the genuine nature of his intent as he awaited the opening bell.

Galvano's tactics from the start were obvious - hold, smother and generally frustrate his opponent. In the opening round he demonstrated an array of headlocks which would have had Hulk Hogan worried, but Benn stuck to his task and a left hook had the Italian holding for real and a right hook had him backing up against the ropes.

The Italian's best chance of victory was to enrage Benn, a ploy which he continued to pursue in the second when Galvano landed a punch after the Londoner had slipped to the canvas.

Galvano had a point deducted in the seventh for persistently hitting on the break, but later in the round he had his best moment when a right hand momentarily left the champion looking disorientated.

A left hook at the end of round nine hurt Galvano, who responded with a punch after the bell, and although Benn landed a superb right uppercut in the next round the Italian proved that if nothing else he was durable and courageous. In a typical display of Italian bravado, Galvano raised his glove in triumph at the end, but it was another sham performance. There could be no doubt about who was the winner.

PROFESSIONAL PROMOTION (Scottish Exhibition Centre, Glasgow): 6-rd light-heavyweight: Paul Hitch (Newcastle) bt Bobby Mack (Birmingham) pts. 6-rd light-welterweight: Jimmy Vincent (Doncaster) bt Mark Tibbs (West Ham) pts. 6-rd light-heavyweight: Steve Wilson (Haddington) bt Dave Owens (Castleford) rsf 2nd. 6-rd light- middleweight: Robin Reid (Runcorn) bt Julian Davis (Yeovil) rsf 2nd. 8-rd flyweight: Paul Weir (Irvine) bt Kevin Jenkins (Wales) pts. 6-rd middleweight: Willie Quinn (Haddington) bt Steve Thomas (Wales) rsf 4th. 12-rd for World Boxing Council super-middleweight Championship: Nigel Benn (East London, holder) bt Mauro Galvano (Italy) pts.