Boxing: Nelson handed home draw

Johnny Nelson's four-year reign as the World Boxing Organisation cruiserweight champion seemed to have ended as controversially as it began at the same Derby Storm arena last night. But thanks to the baffling benevolence of judges from America and Spain he remains in possession of the title by virtue of a draw against Panamanian Guillermo Jones in his 10th defence. "The decision stinks,'' declared Sky's ringside commentator Ian Darke, and he was spot on.

Nelson, nudging 36, should have paid the price this time for his irritating negativity. He was lackadaisical and repeatedly outpunched and outworked by an undistinguished opponent who complained bitterly that he had been robbed by a home-town decision.

One of the two US judges voted for Jones, the other scored it a draw while the Spaniard, astonishingly, gave it to Nelson. The verdict was as bad as the fight which tested the patience of the referee Paul Thomas as well as the crowd. Nelson insisted that he would not argue with it. "It was a messy fight and he looked busy but he was not landing.'' The Sheffield veteran has given some frustrating performances in his time but this surely was his nadir.

In contrast Bradford's Junior Witter, the British and Commonwealth light-welterweight champion, and a Nelson stablemate, has changed his style to become one of Britain's most exciting fighters. This was again in evidence in his two-round demolition of the Italian champion Guiseppe Lauri, his 10th successive victory inside the distance.

It was billed as a final eliminator for the WBO title but equally it advanced Witter towards his goal of a domestic showdown with the World Boxing Union champion Ricky Hatton. Witter stopped Lauri three rounds earlier than Hatton had done before him. The on-looking Hatton was suitably impressed, calling it a "flawless performance''. ''Let's get it on,'' he said to Witter. Let's hope they do.

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