Boxing: Eubank clings to title

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The Independent Online
CHRIS EUBANK lost his unblemished record but retained his World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title following a thrilling draw against Belfast's Ray Close here last night.

Eubank looked to have done enough, but the judges were clearly swayed by the wholehearted commitment of the Irishman, and while Eubank has been flattered by previous decisions he could claim to be a shade hard done by on this occasion.

'His work rate was brilliant and consistent,' Eubank said. 'He came to fight but I thought my skills would take him out. I thought I did enough with my clean shots and the knock-down.'

Even by his standards it was a particularly languid start from the champion, who had perhaps over exerted himself with a full repertoire of pre-fight posturing. Whatever the reason the challenger must have won the first two rounds, for no other reason than Eubank barely deigned to throw a punch. Close's tactics clearly were to attempt to apply pressure, looking to explore openings behind his left jab. Eubank was content to let him work before opening up with single shots in the third.

The Close left jab continued to cause Eubank problems. More worrying for the champion was his inability to find his range with any consistency. Too often during the middle rounds Eubank missed horribly and was punished by counters from the Irishman. Eubank landed his best punch of the contest in the eighth, a long right hand, but still Close pressed forward, opening a cut to the side of his opponent's left eye.

Close began to run out of steam in the latter stages as Eubank began to shake his opponent, and probably turned the contest in his favour in the 11th round with a single right uppercut which floored the challenger.

Goodness knows what inner determination made Close rise at nine, let alone survive the round, but his vulnerability was evident.

Eubank scented a finish in the 12th although the Irishman would not be denied. There was an embrace of mutual respect at the end, perhaps it was a fight neither man deserved to lose. It is Eubank though who remains on course for some substantial pay-days.

Earlier, Pat Clinton lost his World Boxing Organisation flyweight title when he was pounded to an eighth-round defeat at the hands of the South African Jacob 'Baby Jake' Matlala.

As in his previous title fights Clinton was made to look very ordinary, and by the end of the fourth the diminutive South African was in control. Clinton eventually went down twice in the eighth round. After that Matlala finished off the Scot with a two- punch combination that sent Clinton to the canvas - where he stayed for a worryingly long time.

PROFESSIONAL PROMOTION (Glasgow): 12- rd for WBO super-middleweight championship: C Eubank (Brighton, holder) drew with R Close (Belfast) (Eubank retains title); 12-rd for WBO flyweight championship: J Matlala (SA) bt P Clinton (Sco, holder) ko 8th; 6-rd super featherweight: A Levine (Liverpool) bt R Davison (Salford) pts; 6-rd super middleweight: W Quinn (Sco) bt D Owens (Castleford) pts.