Nelson sets sights on unification fight

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The Independent Online

After the hardest fight of his career Johnny Nelson now has to wait on the outcome of a meeting between his promoter Frank Warren and a Bulgarian matchmaker called Ivalo next week to find out who he fights next.

On Saturday night in Sheffield Nelson was involved in the type of brawl that he has so far managed to avoid during a remarkable career that started 15 years ago and has seen him compete for a variety of world title belts in a dozen different countries.

He retained his World Boxing Organisation cruiserweight title on points over his No 1 contender Marcelo Dominguez.

When the fight was over Dominguez, who is three years younger than Nelson at 31 and has previously held a version of the world title, decided that it was time to stop putting his health at risk and officially announced his retirement. During the second half of the fight both boxers had to neglect most forms of defence in what turned into a gruelling encounter.

Now Nelson wants a unification fight which he deserves after eight successful defences. The man that he and Warren have selected is Kazakhstan's Vassily Jirov, the International Boxing Federation champion, and that is why Ivalo is involved.

In 1996 Jirov left the Atlanta Olympics with the light-heavyweight gold medal and the best boxer of the tournament award. He agreed terms to fight as a professional for Ivalo and since then has remained unbeaten and avoided by most Americans. On Friday night, after years of frustration, he left the cruiserweight division and made his debut as a heavyweight but Nelson is convinced that he will return to cruiserweight for a unification fight.

''Jirov is without doubt one of the most outstanding champions at any weight in modern boxing and I consider meeting him to be the best available fight for me,'' said Nelson.

If Warren and Ivalo can agree terms then the fight could take place back in Sheffield in November or December.

Last December in Sheffield there was an unfortunate conclusion to a brilliant featherweight fight when Scarborough's Paul Ingle lost his IBF title on a 12th round knock-out to South Africa's Mbulelo Botile. Ingle underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from the surface of his brain and, after months in intensive care and five months in rehabilitation, he appeared in public for the first time at ringside to watch Nelson. When he was introduced to the crowd there was a five-minute long standing ovation.

Bristol's Adrian Stone, who is now based in New Jersey, took a terrible beating at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on Saturday from the World Boxing Council welterweight champion Shane Mosley. It came to a sudden and sickening end in round three when Mosley, who is arguably the finest pound for pound boxer in the world, connected with a concussive blur of punches to drop Stone.

The referee did not even bother to count and after Stone had made a recovery he was sensibly detained for 12 hours under observation in hospital. Stone, like Dominguez, had tried everything to overcome a superior opponent but both boxers had fallen short.

Meanwhile, an opponent and a month have been announced to end the peculiar exile of Naseem Hamed who has not fought since losing to Mexico's Marco Antonio Barrera in April. It now looks likely that Hamed, who has been strangely silent, will return to a British ring and fight for the vacant International Boxing Organisation featherweight title against Spain's Manuel Calvo in November.