Boxing: McMillan tastes the hard truth: Britain's dethroned world featherweight champion is left to rue his power shortage. Ken Jones reports

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THE hobgoblins of injustice are presumed to be everywhere in boxing and, to hear Colin McMillan's people tell it, they would not let up even after he had proved his courage against a persistent hard man from Colombia.

At Olympia on Saturday night McMillan lost the World Boxing Organisation featherweight championship in what proved to be a misguided voluntary defence against Reuben Palacio when a dislocated left shoulder made it impossible for him to continue after 1min 52sec of the eighth round. The cause and effect was at the centre of a controversy that raged long after McMillan had been transported to hospital in considerable pain, his bruised and bloodied face testimony to the brutal effectiveness of Palacio's rough-house style.

What had to be decided when it immediately became clear that McMillan, with only one good arm, could not defend himself against bludgeoning attacks, was whether he was entitled to benefit from a rule that provides for a points' decision in the event of an accidental injury after three rounds have been completed.

In the view of most ringsiders McMillan was hurt when hooked up beneath the armpit on Palacio's right shoulder, but it was not shared by Denmark's Jess Andreasen, refereeing his first world championship contest, or the supervisor, Ed Levine, of the United States. They declared Palacio the winner on a technical knock-out, a bitter result for McMillan who had appeared to be at last getting into his stride and was ahead on all three official scorecards.

Some felt John Morris, the general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, had not done enough to press the beaten champion's case; others, that McMillan's corner men had been crucially premature when throwing in a towel and then invading the ring in the fear that an indulgent official had failed to appreciate the seriousness of their man's predicament.

Diplomatically, Morris said: 'I want to see a video of the fight before coming to a decision, but it did look like an accident. In any case, Colin was very unlucky and we shall be doing everything possible to get him a re-match.' As Frank Warren, the promoter, inserted customary options in Palacio's contract, this is a likely outcome. But for the time being at least, McMillan can forget about fighting Paul Hodkinson, the World Boxing Council 9st champion who was being tempted into a unifying contest that could have been worth pounds 200,000 to both men.

Hodkinson, at ringside on Saturday, said: 'I'm still willing to fight Colin but it would have to be on my terms - 75 per cent to his 25 per cent. There's no reason to feel disappointed. I'm still a world champion, he isn't. If I do fight McMillan it would be easy money. If he wasn't strong enough to discourage Palacio how could he handle me?'

The question contains an element of truth. For all McMillan's natural gifts, the stylish manoeuvres and dazzling hand speed that so appeal to aficionados of the sport, it has been worryingly apparent that he does not possess enough raw power to quickly sicken experienced brawlers like Palacio who was raised in the hard rings of Latin America.

However, McMillan was well below his best against an opponent who made no pretence at probing for openings. Palacio, when not inviting the champion to tangle dangerously with him on the ropes, simply lunged forward, always threatening to do serious damage with his head, and tricks of infighting on the blind side of the referee.

Palacio had no clear advantages in height and reach, but it was evident from the opening bell that he had been persuaded to try and blast through McMillan's defences. In the second round he staggered the champion with a wide left hook, and from then on it became a bitter struggle for the Londoner.

Having come in at exactly 9st there was a suspicion that McMillan had not easily made the weight, and there was little of the impressive authority he showed last May when outpointing Maurizio Stecca, of Italy, for the championship.

It turned out to be a bleak experience for him. The loss of a title, a ravaged shoulder, a night in hospital. Now McMillan has to prove his recuperative powers while coming to terms with a truth about the featherweight division. There is plenty of natural badness out there.

(Photograph omitted)