The wicked mismatch

Naseem gets his Princely sums right as Argentinian succumbs in second round
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When the bookies lay even money against Naseem Hamed winning in the second round, and he duly obliges, it says much about the confidence the money men have in the World Boxing Organisation and International Boxing Featherweight featherweight champion.

His Argentinian challenger Juan Cabrera, a six-day substitute, lasted two minutes and 17 seconds into the second round, and at least has the satisfaction of having stayed on his feet throughout the one-sided battering, but he was completely outclassed as Naseem retained his title for the seventh time.

He had predicted a second-round finish, and delivered in style with thunderous hook and uppercuts which the durable Argentinian did well to survive even for five minutes. As Naseem said: "When you're getting hit with shots of mine, you don't go past the second round."

Cabrera had looked unconcerned during the long drawn- out preliminaries and danced to Naseem's entry music during the five minutes it took the champion to reach ringside. It was the liveliest Cabrera would look all evening: once the opening bell sounded, the gulf in class was immediately apparent as Naseem landed virtually at will with southpaw jabs and jolting left uppercuts.

But the champion was in no rush to finish the job, and twice he grinned and walked away after hurting the challenger with left hooks thrown from a southpaw stance. Cabrera ended the round with his face reddened and looked bewildered as he walked to his corner.

Naseem quickly put him out of his misery in the second. Right uppercuts shook him, and although he tried bravely to hit back, Cabrera was painfully out of his depth. A right opened a cut by his right eye and his face was smeared with blood from his nose. He flailed back, but Naseem ignored the punches and stepped in with a right uppercut and a final left hook which sent his game challenger reeling in his own corner. The American referee, Luis Morett, moved smartly in before Hamed could land another punch, and there were no complaints from the Argentinian camp.

It was an important victory for Naseem, as the fight was screened live in America on the ABC network, affording him a priceless shop window. As he put it afterwards: "Now America can see that the best featherweight in the world comes from Sheffield."

Earlier Basingstoke's Dean Francis won the British super middleweight title in spectacular style from the previously unbeaten David Starie, stopping him in six rounds to avenge an ABA championship loss to the Suffolk man in 1994. Starie took the early rounds as Francis showed him too much respect, but once the challenger started shortening his punches and closing the range from the third, he took control.

Starie was nicked on the left cheek in the second and cut over the right eye late in the fifth, which injected a little more urgency into his work at the start of the sixth. But that played into Francis's hands: he caught Starie coming in with a right, and followed with two left hooks to drop him for a count of six against the ropes. He tried to rally, but Francis drove him into his own corner and ripped in hooks to the head until referee Dave Parris intervened as the champion started to sag to the floor.

Francis's father Trevor won the ABA welterweight title in this ring in 1972 and challenged unsuccessfully for the British professional title 22 years ago. He was at ringside to see his son succeed where he had failed, and the new champion said afterwards: "This was for dad."