Boxing: Khan cuts loose after early blow

Lightweight notches another title defence but not before he's given a rude awakening by Gomez. By Alan Hubbard in Birmingham
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The Independent Online

Ring warrior Michael Gomez, written off as a no-hoper, gave Amir Khan the fight – and the fright – of his young boxing life here at the NIA Arena last night before succumbing to the flashing fists of the Commonwealth lightweight champion in six rounds. This was expected to be a brutally brief encounter. Brutal it was but Gomez extended Khan, knocking him down for the second time in the Olympic silver medallist's career in a heroic display of go-forward aggression. Inevitably, Khan came through for his fourth successful title defence and his 18th victory. But Gomez, pluckily defiant, left with his head held high, bloodied as it was.

Only fighting fools rush in and Khan was determined not to make that mistake, giving a measured display in the opening couple of minutes before Gomez was dropped with a crisp right uppercut in the first round following a typical fusillade of head punches.

Creditably, however, Gomez never stopped going forward. "Stay with him" urged Gomez's corner and the advice paid off, a left hook putting Khan down in the second but after the standing eight count it served to provoke a similarly furious response as it did when Khan was floored by Willie Limond in winning this title a year ago.

From that moment there were times when the Manchester boxer, once the British super-featherweight champion, was reduced to little more than a punchbag. But he took everything that Khan threw at him and consistently came forward, often making Khan blink.

But Khan fought beautifully on the retreat and in the fifth drove Gomez from mid-ring to a corner with such a two-fisted battering that it seemed referee John Keane would have been right to step in then. But it took another round, with Gomez bleeding from a cut around the left eye and put on the floor by a crippling body shot, before Mr Keane finally and perhaps a little belatedly called a halt.

As it turned out, it was hardly the best of 31st birthdays for Gomez and he will not be wishing for too many happy returns after such a battering. Gomez had always intended to use the TV exposure as a trailer for a forthcoming film of his life, a remarkable story which embraces beating a murder rap. He was acquitted on a reduced charge of manslaughter exactly 10 years ago to the day, successfully pleading self-defence after a youth died in a gang fight.

He has kicked a drugs habit and survived a street stabbing in 2002. Born Michael Armstrong to a travelling family in Dublin, he was also once accused of throwing a fight in a betting coup which he has always denied. So it was hardly surprising that he kept going forward despite the piercing arrows that Khan was aiming in his direction. Despite his valour, Gomez is definitely yesterday's man whereas for Khan it's all about the future.

The footballer fighter Curtis Woodhouse, who once played down the road in midfield for Birmingham City, won his seventh professional belt, blasting out local welterweight Wayne Downing in just 57 seconds.

Woodhouse, 27, a former Under-21 international, resumes training with non-League club Rushden & Diamonds shortly in what will be his last season before going full-time in the ring.

Birmingham's Commonwealth Games gold medallist flyweight Don Broadhurst continued his unbeaten pro career, outpointing Belgian Alan Bonnel over six rounds in his eighth contest.

In a major upset the Coventry veteran Steve Bendall, 34, regained the English middleweight title with a 10-round points defeat (96-94) of the previously unbeaten Liverpudlian holder Paul Smith. In an untidy fight Smith seemed to have the edge most of the way through but suffered a badly cut right eye towards the end of the fight. But the decision was controversial, for Smith, a star in the "Contender" series and a silver medallist in the Commonwealth Games, who comes from a large boxing family, seemed to have done enough to snatch the verdict.

A sell-out crowd of 10,000 witnessed the rebirth of big-time boxing, which had not staged major fights since the days of Benn and Eubank in the Nineties. Once Birmingham was a regular big fight town but there were some scenes of crowd violence at a couple of contests which seemed to turn off promoters.

However, Warren's Sports Network organisation bringing about a revival for last night's bill will be followed by the return of heavyweight Audley Harrison against Martin Rogan on 19 July and an even bigger prize on the horizon for, if things go to plan, local Brummie Frankie Gavin, the current world amateur champion who hopes to improve on Khan's Olympic silver medal in Beijing next month, will be making his pro debut in the Autumn.

The Commonwealth light-middleweight champion Bradley Pryce successfully defended his title for the sixth time, stopping Marcus Portman of West Bromwich after one minute 50 seconds of the sixth round.

Pryce, a smart mover schooled in the same stable as Joe Calzaghe in Newbridge, had former British Masters welterweight champion Portman down with a right-hand punch and the fight was stopped after the challenger had taken a standing eight count.