Nelson primed for ultimate test

Muhammad Ali once fought a Kung Fu expert, Mike Tyson took on the carnival might of the WWF franchise and tonight Johnny Nelson defends his World Boxing Organisation cruiserweight title against Australian ultimate fighting veteran Adam Watt at the Dome, Doncaster.

Muhammad Ali once fought a Kung Fu expert, Mike Tyson took on the carnival might of the WWF franchise and tonight Johnny Nelson defends his World Boxing Organisation cruiserweight title against Australian ultimate fighting veteran Adam Watt at the Dome, Doncaster.

Watt has entered the ring, climbed on a mat or descended into a sandpit for over 200 different types of fights during his time at one of Tokyo's leading combat houses. He never killed a man in any of the brutal brawls but he saw others die and still hears about people he knew suffering grotesque injuries.

"I would like to see ultimate fighting banned. It is just too dangerous," said Watt yesterday. "I was fighting men much bigger than me and they were all just juiced up machines. I did it for the money but it was not a good career move."

The years in Japan left their mark on Watt's fighting style and he has no secrets in the ring. He developed his hit or be hit tactic in fights against men with names like Deathstar, Bulldog and Tall Mountain. Four years ago he turned his back on the vicious freak show and returned to Australia to become a professional boxer.

In the boxing ring his progress has been steady but unspectacular. He has lost twice, both by stoppage, and has won 14 other fights, all by stoppage. In June he ruined the usually durable Bruce Scott in four rounds to win the vacant Commonwealth cruiserweight title. Twelve months earlier Nelson had beaten Scott on points over 12 often repetitive rounds.

Nelson, however, is an exceptional fighter, having turned pro in 1986 and fought his way from obscurity and back to anonymity and somehow clawed his way back to the top. He lost his first three fights and then was banished for a dreadful world title challenge in 1990.

Last year Nelson finally won the world title and tonight will be his sixth defence and his 58th fight of a career that has looked over so often that it has become impossible to predict its future course.

The pair have fought in a variety of exotic locations but even Nelson acknowledged that Watt's recent fight in Noumea, New Caledonia, against Samoan Lightning Lupe was as bizarre as boxing can possibly get. Watt agreed and added that the show was free to anybody who wanted to watch it. Nelson fought in Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand during his exile between 1991 and 1996.

When Watt was on the ultimate fighting circuit he claims that he often played the role of the opponent and entered fights as a massive underdog. He said: "It was always just two guys in my corner and sometimes the guy in the other corner had 30,000 people willing him to win." Tonight Nelson will not have anything like 30,000 people but he is unlikely to need that much support to pull off what should be an easy win but is also likely to be extremely entertaining while it lasts.

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