Boxing: Skelton rattled by superior Chagaev

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The Independent Online

There are often two ways to view a fight, and that was most definitely the case on Saturday night in Dusseldorf when Matt Skelton failed in his bid to win the World Boxing Association heavyweight title from Ruslan Chagaev.

The fight went the full 12 rounds, and all three of the scoring judges at ringside voted heavily in favour of Chagaev. But ringside opinion was divided. It was not that anybody truly believed Skelton had won, it was just that people left the fight with a very different opinion of what they had seen.

Some people thought Chagaev looked ordinary and had struggled with Skelton's power and bulk.

Others believe that Chagaev had dominated a comfortable defence. There were others who were adamant that it was a total whitewash in Chagaev's favour, and just one or two who thought it was so close that the last round was the deciding factor.

The truth is out there somewhere, and probably contains a component from just about every category.

Skelton, who is 40 on Wednesday, fought with his heart on his sleeve and often boxed better than he has at any point in his career, but he fell way short.

However, the comment by Frank Maloney, who was the manager of former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, that Skelton was not good enough to be a sparring partner in Lewis's camp seemed extremely harsh.

Chagaev had been out of the ring since last April, and for the first four or five rounds he appeared sluggish at times. But once he took advantage of Skelton's fading speed, he took control, and by round eight, when Skelton lost a point for hitting and holding, it was a one-sided affair.

Skelton insists that he will fight on, and in many ways a brief look at the statistics from the fight suggests that he is a likely contender for another world title attempt at some point in the future. So many recent challengers for one of the four recognised world heavyweight titles arrived in the ring for the payday and not the glory. Skelton did last 12 rounds, and always made Chagaev think.

Sadly, on Saturday night, Skelton's many shortfalls were exposed by Chagaev's boxing knowledge. Skelton is not a stupid man, and will realise that he was simply beaten by a much better skilled fighter. The many people who passed opinion on the fight all seemed to agree on one thing, and that is the depth of Skelton's heart and commitment.