Boxing: Nelson joins an obscure elite

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The Independent Online

Johnny Nelson added his name to the long list of forgotten world heavyweight champions who have held versions of the title during the last 40 years when he won the vacant World Boxing Union belt and joined Jimmy Ellis, Ernie Terrell, Francisco Damiani, Michael Bentt, Corrie Sanders and Adilson Rodriguez. Like the others, obscurity beckons if Nelson opts for easy defences.

Nelson was simply too fast for Russia's Alex Vasiliev to win the title that was recently relinquished by, or stripped from, Hasim Rahman – the story differs. It was not a classic fight and it was not for one of the more prestigious belts that remain the absurd property of the self-elected and self-regulating sanctioning bodies but it had entertaining moments.

Nelson, 34, is an acquired taste and during Saturday's one-sided fight there were ample examples of what makes him such a frustrating boxer to watch. On several occasions he had Vasiliev out on his feet but instead of moving in and, as they say in boxing, 'taking care of business', he was simply too cautious and too controlled.

"Johnny hurt him so many times but he just moved off or went back to the jab," said Frank Warren, the fight's promoter. "Forget all the talk about the title and whether it is good or not, the fact remains that Vasiliev is a hard, well-schooled fighter and Johnny could have and should have stopped him."

Vasiliev had beaten three good British heavyweights on previous visits and he was so thoroughly dominated by Nelson that it is possible that only current domestic champion Danny Williams would test the Sheffield fighter.

Nelson will now make a decision on whether to vacate his World Boxing Organisation cruiserweight title to concentrate on the bigger and potentially lucrative division. "I have sparred a lot of rounds with another world champion, Vladimir Klitschko, at our Anfi training camp in Gran Canaria so I know how good big heavyweights are," said Nelson.

Warren is now considering an offer to import South Africa's likable Frans Botha for Nelson's first defence. Both Warren and Nelson insist they want respectable fights for the WBU title and Botha, who lost to Lewis last year and Mike Tyson the previous year, would be ideal.