Boxing: Unconvincing Benn ready to face Gent

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The Independent Online
NIGEL BENN successfully retained his World Boxing Council super-middleweight title in Glasgow on Saturday night with a comprehensive points verdict, but his overall performance against Rome's Mauro Galvano was far from entirely convincing.

The Italian, a light hitter with just four stoppages to his credit, found Benn a disturbingly easy target in the latter stages, especially in the final seconds when the champion wobbled uncertainly after Galvano had landed his best punch of the contest.

'I got cocky, simple as that,' Benn said. 'I saw a bit of blood, went for him, and left my hands down. He caught me with a good shot, but I've still got my belt.'

Yes, but for how much longer? If a relatively innocuous puncher like Galvano can shake Benn's foundations, his prospects for a lengthy reign are not promising. Perhaps this explains why his next opponent will not be one of the division's leading names; instead, opportunity knocks for Lou Gent, the WBC International champion from Streatham, who finds himself suddenly elevated to a global stage simply because Benn admires him.

'I have a lot of respect for Lou,' said the champion. 'I like his style, he comes in and gives it everything he's got.' He is also vulnerable against big punchers, the real reason why Benn is keen to meet him.

Gent, who has slimmed down from cruiserweight to super-middle, has held Henry Wharton, the British and Commonwealth champion, to a draw, a result which gives validity to the contest. Wharton is currently the WBC's No 1 contender for Benn's crown.

The match, swiftly endorsed by Trevor East, executive producer of boxing for ITV, is scheduled for late May and promoter Barry Hearn favours a London venue.

It will certainly be a very different affair from the messy performance witnessed by the 5,000- strong Glaswegian crowd. Galvano came to spoil, employing an array of dirty tricks more normally associated with wrestling.

To his credit Benn did not rise to the bait. Despite being hit on the canvas, after the bell and on the break, the Londoner maintained his composure in trying circumstances which were not helped by an uncharacteristically weak performance from Tony Perez, one of the world's most experienced referees.

At least we were spared a repeat of the scenes in Italy last October, when Benn took his crown, but only after outrageous Italian appeals for a technical draw were rejected.

Benn is now talking of future engagements with hard-hitting James Toney, the current IBF champion, and Jeff Harding, who possesses the WBC light-heavyweight belt. Such a course would be ill-advised. Benn possesses many ring qualities, but his inability fully to absorb the impact of a a well-timed punch is a flaw which will ultimately lead to his undoing.

RIDDICK BOWE will defend his WBA and IBF heavyweight titles in May against either Jesse Ferguson or Alex Garcia before a rematch with the former champion Evander Holyfield in September, his manager, Rock Newman, said yesterday. Lennox Lewis will make the first defence of his WBC heavyweight title against Tony Tucker on Saturday, 8 May, at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.