Boxing: Hodkinson retains world title

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The Independent Online
PAUL HODKINSON, of Liverpool, stormed through the feeble challenge of the Puerto Rican,

Ricardo Cepeda, to retain his World Boxing Council featherweight title here last night.

It was a compelling performance from the champion, who was making the third defence of the title he won in November 1991. He began at an extraordinarily fast pace and never gave his opponent time to settle before forcing a stoppage early in the fourth round.

Hodkinson dominated the first round, landing body shots and hurtful combination punches at will. The New York-based Cepeda seemed overwhelmed by it all, presenting a static target which was exploited by Hodkinson.

His demeanour on entering the ring had suggested a lack of ambition, and he certainly seemed bewildered by the furious early pace set by the 27-year-old Liverpudlian. When he did attempt to throw punches, usually tentative single shots, Hodkinson avoided them with ease.

In the second round, Hodkinson switched his attack cleverly from body to head and another combination briefly sent the challenger down on all fours, with blood seeping from his mouth. He rose quickly but was made to take a standing eight count by the Swiss referee, Frans Marti. The barrage continued, however, Hodkinson opening a small cut over his opponent's left eye.

Not fast enough to avoid Hodkinson, Cepeda was unable to land any counter-punches of his own and was sent spinning from corner to corner in the third round. It was only a question of time, the champion's confidence growing and Cepeda, blood streaming from his nose, wilting by the minute.

The end came abruptly and in a surprising fashion. In the fourth round the challenger found himself trapped in his own corner, with Hodkinson teeing off at will. Although the referee seemed happy to give the Puerto Rican the benefit of the doubt, Cepeda's manager, Negro Gonzalez, had seen enough, and threw himself between the two fighters to end what proved to be an absurdly one-sided world championship contest.

'I'm never happy with a performance,' Hodkinson said, 'but I felt good tonight before I came out. I knew I was going to sparkle.'

His victory keeps him on course for a possible lucrative defence against the Londoner Colin McMillan, an interested ringside observer, later in the year.

(Photograph omitted)