A 29-year-old man from Reading with the unlikely name of Michael Sprott is the new British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion. He wrested the titles in a remarkable upset here last night by defeating the holder, Danny Williams of Brixton, over 12 rounds.
For the shaven-haired Sprott it was a distinct case of third-time lucky. Beaten twice before inside the distance by Williams, he was awarded a surprising verdict by a single point on the scorecard of the referee Dave Parris. He made Sprott the winner by 115-114 - six rounds to five with one even - whereas most observers at ringside, including this correspondent, made Williams the winner by some two rounds.
None the less, the former champion had only himself to blame for fighting the oddest of contests relying solely on his jab, rarely throwing a body shot and frequently resorting to curiously passive tactics, glancing at his gloves, muttering to himself and beckoning towards Sprott. This pawing and posing obviously cut no ice with Parris and there were surprisingly few in the crowd, which seemed largely composed of Sprott supporters, who protested at the outcome.
The 30-year-old Williams was defending his British title for the fifth time and the Commonwealth crown for the eighth time, and we had been told to expect a reinvigorated fighter. But the new Williams was hardly an improvement on the old and twice, once in the seventh and again in the eighth, he was wobbled by Sprott's assaults.
Even though there seemed to be more snap and accuracy in Williams' jab his armoury remained unconvincing, as, indeed, was the entire calibre of the contest. It attracted a crowd of around 2,000, a thin echo of the days when in the big arena across the way Henry Cooper and Co packed in attendances of five figures. Last night that old stamping ground was occupied by Meat Loaf and no doubt his renditions made more impact.
There was a certain irony in the result in that last time it was Sprott who complained at the controversial result after being hit low before being knocked out. This time it was Williams' turn to lodge a complaint with the British Boxing Board of Control. "The result was a travesty,'' he said. "I don't think he won more than three rounds. Good luck to him but I thought I clearly won the fight.''
It was Sprott's 25th win in a career that has also shown seven losses. A little lucky maybe, but his persistence has paid off.
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