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Boxing : No stopping Akinwande

HENRY AKINWANDE produced a performance here last night that demands he be taken serious as a heavyweight. Anyone who does not believe in the Dulwich-born fighter's credentials should ask Scott Welch who lost every round on his way to a comprehensive beating.

The fight may have been for the World Boxing Organisation championship but the American public wrote it off as a showdown between two moderate British heavyweights. Although this might apply to Welch, the undefeated Akinwande proved himself to be on a different level and with his awkward style and accurate punching will be a match for anyone. The dream of Welch, nicknamed the Brighton Rock, to become the first British white world heavyweight champion this century was never going to be realised and in the end he did well to take Akinwande to points.

Akinwande was always in control and comfortably took the opening rounds, using his reach to keep away from the wild lurches of Welch. Try as he may the challenger could not get near the body he had targeted as Akinwande's weak spot and his advances were often just swatted away by the champion.

Welch showed his frustrations as he steamrollered in on Akinwande, but these forays rather than do any lasting damage merely served to show the lack of ideas Welch had brought into the ring. Two obvious butts from Welch both earned warnings off the referee, Bill Connors, and Akinwande stepped up the pace with body shots of his own to weaken his tiring opponent.

A right hand buckled Welch in the sixth, but Akinwande could not find the finishing punch. The last six rounds saw Welch hanging on, intent on taking it to the scorecards, but his refusal to launch any attack drew boos from the crowd.

Bigger challenges now await Akinwande who is in line for a shot at Lennox Lewis, if his fellow countryman can beat America's Oliver McCall for the World Boxing Council title next month. That will be Akinwande's real fight for credibility.