Boxing: Inspired Skelton wreaks revenge

Hugely overweight Williams left baffled and breathless by rival's change of tactics
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The Independent Online

Matt Skelton, the one-time kick-boxer turned slick boxer, has become the new Commonwealth heavyweight champion at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff by beating Danny Williams. But revenge was sweeter than the fight, a laboured, messy affair with the ever enigmatic Williams virtually throwing it away with one of his more pedestrian performances, largely because he came in at the ridiculously heavy weight, even for a heavyweight, of 20st 8lb.

It was left to lightweight Amir Khan to provide the razzle dazzle, stopping Scotland's Colin Bain in two rounds, the first man to do so. It was Amir's eighth successive victory.

Last time Williams and Skelton fought, it was a split decision; last night it was unanimous, two ringside judges giving him a five-round margin (117-112) and the third by one (115-114). I had Skelton winning by two rounds but there was no doubt he deserved a clear victory.

The Doncaster referee, Howard Foster, never allowed it to degenerate into the unseemly bout of biffs and butts rough-house of their previous encounter, which went down as one of the dirtiest fights of the decade.

Foster stopped most of the aberrations before they started, at one stage pulling both men apart and warning: "I can throw you both out - I don't care.''

Previously Skelton had been the main culprit of that foul-ridden fight. Last night it was Williams who tried to respond in kind, receiving a warning for a low blow in the eighth round. It was about the only time he connected soundly, most of the cleaner punching coming from 39-year-old Skelton, whose change of tactics seemed to baffle the big Londoner.

Skelton stayed on his toes, amassing an unassailable points lead in the first half of the fight and boxing behind his jab. It was a depressing showing from Williams, who for most of the contest went back into his shell of self-doubt allowing Skelton, not noted for his ring skills, to dictate the pace and the punching.

Alarm bells rang when Williams, 33 next week, stepped on to the scales on Friday to register the highest weight of his career, more than two stones heavier than Skelton. Quite what he was hoping to achieve was hard to discern. He had also prepared for the bout by living and training in an oxygen tent to replicate being at altitude. Alas, he was brought down to earth this time by an opponent he had expected to try and out-brawl him.

Although it was an inspired showing by Skelton, overall the bout lacked the sort of fizz we had anticipated but it means that Skelton is now on the brink of a world title fight against someone even bigger than Williams, the 7ft, 23st monster from Russia, Nicolay Valuev, the champion. Promoter Frank Warren hopes to negotiate a meeting at the end of the year.

Skelton said: "I know I'm knocking on a bit and I haven't the finesse of a lot of fighters but I believe I have what it takes to win a world title. I thought I won last time and I am not going to rubbish Danny. He's a brilliant fighter but I knew in my head I could beat him.'' Skelton's mobility was the telling factor. At times his prancing was almost Ali-like. So to, of course, was that of the 19-year-old Amir.

His opponent, a 27-year-old joiner from Hawick, seemed overwhelmed by the occasion and his opponent. He had a reasonable record, winning 10 of his 11 contests, but most of those were from Nobby Nobbs' stable of "opponents". Yet he had never been stopped.

In his second six-rounder, Amir floored Bain with two left hooks to the body in the first round. Bain was also down twice in the third, finally from a blistering array of punches that brought an intervention from referee Winford Jones.

Bain was really the perfect opposition at this stage for Amir because of his lack of punching power. The Olympic silver medallist has been a pro for a year and his career remains on fast forward. He will box again in his home town of Bolton on 2 September, and says: "I am learning with every fight. But I am going to take my time and I know that one day I will fight for the world title and win it.'' Don't doubt him.