Boxing: Witter still struggling to beat system

Squabble over judges may strip Briton's latest title fight in US of its championship status
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The Independent Online

The boxing business continues for Junior Witter tonight in California with another world title fight, another unbeaten young American and yet another set of problems outside the ring. Witter has been the forgotten man of British boxing for over a decade, living in the shadow of Ricky Hatton and putting together a brilliant career that would shame most of the sport's so-called top performers.

Tonight, Witter fights Devon Alexander, an unbeaten southpaw who is just 22, for the vacant World Boxing Council light welterweight crown. It is the title Witter lost to Timothy Bradley, who was unbeaten in 21 fights, last year on a split decision.

There is a chance the fight will lose its championship status because the Californian authorities have insisted on using their judges and not the WBC's travelling party of men in bow ties. "It seems that I have to beat unbeaten Americans in the ring and the system on the outside of the ropes," said Witter, who for years tried to secure a fight with his British nemesis.

"Hatton hates me and he knows that I would beat him now, and that I would have beaten him at any point in the last decade. I don't blame him for avoiding me, I just wish that he would tell the truth about the situation.

"I guess that I've just been the wrong fighter, at the wrong time and in the wrong place. I live with it, but it is never easy and I do get annoyed when I hear some of the things that have been said about me," continued Witter, who is 35 and has been a pro since 1997.

Hatton held the World Boxing Union light-welterweight title at the same time that Witter was winning and defending the British, Commonwealth and European titles at the same weight. They both held versions of the world title in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but still Witter was unable to secure a fight.

In private, Hatton laughed at suggestions that Witter deserved a fight and joked about making his rival squirm, before finally saying that he was not going to give Witter a big payday. "He's made a career out of slagging me off at every opportunity," Hatton claimed.

"I tried to put him under pressure by challenging him, trying to embarrass him to get a fight," added Witter. "But in the end he turned away, blamed me, and he's not going to give me a chance now."

Hatton deservedly remains one of British sport's most loved characters and tonight, in a fight lacking any glitz, Witter will start as the underdog and without any British television in another real fight. "I'm used to being ignored," said Witter, who can win to avoid obscurity.