Boxing: Hodkinson's hope

Paul Hodkinson makes a rare appearance in London when he defends his World Boxing Council featherweight title against Ricardo Cepeda, of Puerto Rico, at the National Hall, Olympia, tonight, writes Nick Halling.

Despite just one defeat in his 23-fight career, fame and wealth have so far eluded the 27-year-old Liverpudlian. He deserves better because, even at a time when it has never been easier to win a 'world' title, Hodkinson is the real thing.

His stock should rise if he dispatches Cepeda tonight. There is talk of a contest against Colin McMillan, the gifted Londoner whose brief tenure of the World Boxing Organisation's title was ended by a dislocated shoulder. It would be the biggest domestic draw since Eubank-Benn in 1990.

Tonight's odds favour Hodkinson. Since taking the title off Marcos Villasana, of Mexico, in November 1991, he has successfully defended against the American Steve Cruz and Fabrice Benichou, of France. In his prime, Cepeda would have been a dangerous opponent. He cruised through his first 21 fights, but came unstuck against Villasana in August 1991. The damage was evident in his next appearance 11 months ago when he was stopped in three rounds by Jose Vidal. He has not boxed since.

Hodkinson's only worry is his vulnerability to cuts, particularly around the eyes. His sole loss, when first challenging Villasana in June 1990, came as a result of ghastly eye injuries.

Frank Maloney, Lennox Lewis's manager, flies to Mexico City today to present his bid for the Briton's first defence of the WBC heavyweight title against Tony Tucker scheduled for 24 April either at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, or London's Olympia.