Boxing: Piper has to dance to Benn's tune

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THE experience Nigel Benn had gained in 36 professional contests, four for versions of a world title, was a crucial factor here last night when he stopped Nicky Piper after one minute 44 seconds of the 11th round to retain the World Boxing Council super-middleweight championship.

If the truth is that Benn has made little significant technical progress since building up a string of earlier victories, he has been in with far better men than the Welshman, who was having only his 19th professional fight.

Piper, with his Mensa membership and an IQ of 153, may be a thinking man's fighter but he needed more basic qualities to withstand Benn's aggression.

Having reverted to the style he favoured in the early part of his career Benn took the WBC title from Mauro Galvano in Italy two months ago, and considering that the Welshman was not even ranked at that stage this was thought to be an easy defence. It was never that, but Piper, who has quickly dispatched most of his opponents, discovered that his power did not have the same effect at this level.

He occasionally hurt Benn, and at times beat him to the punch with sharp counters, but there was never enough to discourage the champion from coming forward.

As Piper is freakishly tall for a boxer in the 12-stone division, and has a long shallow midriff. It was predictable that Benn would concentrate a lot of his attacks on the body, and it was not long before Piper's abdominal muscles were beginning to redden.

Nevertheless he made a good contest out of it, winning the second round and holding his own until Benn began to take over at the halfway stage.

Indeed, there were times when Piper looked confident enough but he was seldom able to take the initiative. Benn's relentless attacks were carried through with enough urgency to require some caution on the part of the challenger.

He did his best work with the left jab and counters whenever Benn's punches fell short, but there was hardly a moment when he gained any clear respite and it was always an uphill struggle for him.

As Piper has a tendency to drop his left lead and leave his head up high Benn was encouraged to try and finish the fight with one punch, but although he frequently got in to the left side of the challenger's head he was never planted firmly enough to do any serious damage until the challenger began to tire.

The cumulative effect of Benn's body punching began to tell, and if the champion was also feeling the effects of fatigue Piper did not have enough to take advantage.

Benn might have been taking a rest in the eighth round, but some of the urgency went out of his work, enabling Piper to restore some respectability. However, by the ninth it was clear that Piper would have to pick up the pace. He got his jab going well but once again lack of experience hindered his progress, although he managed to share the 10th round.

It was his last good moment in the fight. The 11th had barely got under way when he suffered once more for leaving his chin unguarded; Benn got in with a long overhand right that scrambled Piper's senses and a left hook put him down for a count of eight.

He resumed on unsteady legs and was pulled around the ring as Benn pressed forward with volleys of punches that sent the Welshman into the ropes. It could not go on much longer, and when Piper was forced back on the ropes, unable to defend himself against a barrage of blows, the referee Larry O'Connell wisely concluded the contest.

In the chief supporting bout Herbie Hide, the heavyweight prospect from Norwich who was ridiculously mentioned by Riddick Bowe as a possible opponent for his first title defence, improved his record to 19 straight victories when when he stopped James Pritchard of Kentucky in the second round.

PROFESSIONAL PROMOTION (Alexandra Palace, London): 8-rd light-welterweight: M Driscoll (Portsmouth) bt B Paul (Tottenham) rsf 2nd. 6-rd light-welterweight: M Tibbs (West Ham) bt D Bramhald (Doncaster) pts. 10-rd heavyweight: H Hide (Norwich) bt J Pritchard (Kentucky) rsf 2nd. 6-rd bantamweight: M Alldis (Crawley) bt K McAuley (Doncaster) ko 1st. 12-rd for World Boxing Council super-middleweight title: N Benn (Ilford, holder) bt N Piper (Cardiff) rsf 11th.

(Photograph omitted)