Boxing: Robinson's world not for Wenton

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SOMETIMES this hard old game asks tougher questions than anyone can reasonably be expected to answer, and last night in Cardiff the severest question of all proved beyond Richie Wenton.

In his first fight since his last opponent Bradley Stone died after Wenton stopped him in 10 rounds to win the vacant British title, the British super- bantamweight champion suddenly turned away and quit after two minutes and 10 seconds of the fifth round against Welshman Neil Swain on the undercard of Steve Robinson's successful defence of the WBO featherweight title against Duke McKenzie. Robinson knocked out the challenger in the ninth round.

If Robinson provided the night's thrills, Wenton supplied its poignancy. It had been an uncompromising battle, with Wenton perhaps just ahead but boxing without the authority and confidence which had made him champion. Wenton had looked unhappy under pressure in the early part of the fifth round, but rallied well enough to make Swain give ground. Then, suddenly, as Swain started to counter attack, Wenton turned away, spat out his gumshield and walked to his corner.

He was at a loss for words that might explain the decision which might well spell the end of his career. 'I asked myself why I walked away, and I don't know. My mind just wasn't there. I had a lot of things on my mind tonight, a lot on my shoulders.

'I've got to get back in the ring I'm up against the wall now and I've got to get this out of my system. There's nothing else in life for me - I've just got to get it together again. But tonight, for every second of every minute of every round with this man in front of me, what would you be thinking?' And then he buried his head in a blood-smeared white towel and wept.

In last night's main event, McKenzie opened promisingly, out-jabbing Robinson and keeping him at a distance. The Welshman took charge from the second as he settled into his work, scoring consistently with solid right hooks and keeping McKenzie on the move. McKenzie had to use the full perimeter of the ring in the third and fourth as Robinson, looking much the stronger, kept him backed up and under pressure.

The challenger's boxing was technically flawless, but he simply lacked the muscle to keep Robinson at a distance and even though he rallied well to edge the fifth, he was kept under fire throughout the sixth and seventh even turning southpaw briefly twice in the seventh in a vain attempt to confuse the champion.

McKenzie's task became even more difficult when he was deducted a point for persistent holding in the eighth round, but even though Robinson was landing the heaviest blows, the challenger was still very much in the fight.

The ending, after 2min 50sec of the ninth round took everyone by surprise: McKenzie had been landing well with right upper cuts and showed every sign of mounting a rally over the last four rounds. But a left hook, which landed behind his right elbow, sent him writhing in pain to the floor.

So the evening ended on a high note for the capacity crowd. But not for Wenton. Some of those at ringside were unforgiving. 'He hadn't trained, that's all,' said one of Wenton. 'He doesn't have the heart for it,' said another.

But then neither of them had been in the ring with Bradley Stone last April, and neither had lived with the demons which finally swamped Richie Wenton here last night.

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