Boxing: Williams fury at Skelton's vanishing act

Williams and Skelton were due to fight back in July but the flu bug persuaded Williams to leave his hotel in Bolton less than 24 hours before the first bell. Since that disastrous night, Skelton, who was defending his British heavyweight title has repeatedly referred to Williams as a "coward".

Inevitably, the two boxers were matched again but their proposed 3 December showdown ran into serious trouble earlier this week when Skelton demanded £150,000 for the fight which is double what he was being paid in July.

The usual practice when a fighter insists on more money is for a series of long and dull negotiations to take place, but Skelton stopped returning calls on Tuesday and has simply vanished.

All attempts by members of Warren's staff to track the fighter down have proved fruitless and yesterday Williams travelled from his home in Brixton in an open-top bus to Skelton's home town of Bedford in an attempt to embarrass his bitter verbal rival into accepting less money and making their fight a reality.

"I wish I knew what was going on,'' said Frank Warren. "This is without doubt the British heavyweight title fight that people want to see and there is genuine animosity between the boxers and if we can find Skelton, perhaps we can still make it happen.''

It is thought that Skelton refused an offer of £100,000 and asked for it to be increased to £150,000, claiming that it was principle and not the money that was motivating him.

Williams is not convinced. He said: "I had to listen to Skelton and his management team calling me a coward, calling me yellow all summer and now that I am ready to fight he is hiding behind a lousy fifty grand. He looks like a big ugly bear but there was a yellow streak all the way up his back.''

Warren is still confident that the pair will meet in London, hopefully for the Commonwealth version of the title, on 3 December providing Skelton can be found and a contract agreed as soon as possible.

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