Boxing: Grant quells rueful Graham

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FRANK GRANT produced one of the biggest domestic upsets of recent years with a ninth-round stoppage of defending champion Herol Graham to win the British middleweight title at Elland Road, Leeds, last night.

The defeat, his first to a British opponent in 49 contests, may also have ended Graham's long and illustrious career.

The stoppage clearly upset the former champion, who is 33 next month, but earlier in the round he had been down for a count of nine following a six-punch combination, and was taking further punishment without reply when the referee, Paul Thomas, stepped in after two minutes 20 seconds of the round.

Grant, the unheralded 27-year-old challenger from Bradford, optimistically bills himself The Terminator, and entered the ring shouldering a round of fake bullets. He could have done with real ones at the start against the champion, who began the opening rounds in style, moving freely round the ring and scoring repeatedly with crisp counter-punches.

As expected, the challenger came out firing, the only strategy he could realistically adopt against Graham, but too often he was left swotting furiously at thin air as the veteran champion eluded his crude assaults. In the second round Grant landed a useful looking two punch combination, and then added a solid right to the head. Graham covered up, seemingly in trouble, but soon fought back and continued to dominate the round.

Graham also controlled the third, establishing a long right jab and landing a succession of straight rights. Towards the end of the round Grant landed a solid right of his own, and must have been disheartened as Graham dropped his gloves, shrugged his shoulders and gave him a rueful smile. From early on, it looked as though Graham was giving his rival a lesson.

Graham, however, was rudely shaken out of his complacency in the fifth when Grant finally connected with a long left hook. But Grant was unable to follow up his advantage as the Sheffield man drew on his vast reserves of experience to stay out of serious trouble.

The pattern in the middle rounds changed. Even though Graham boxed with authority, Grant was getting through with some dangerous blows. Big blows landed at the end of the sixth and the start of the seventh, but the challenger's relentless pressure also made him an open target for Graham.

Graham, though, took too many shots for comfort and, despite constantly chatting with his opponent, lacked the authority of old.

In the night's other championship fight, Henry Wharton, from York, became a double champion by taking the British super-middleweight title from Sheffield's Fidel Castro over 12 messy rounds. Wharton, the Commonwealth title-holder, took the verdict by a single round, the referee Larry O'Connell scoring it 118-117 1/2 in his favour.