Title moves Rhodes into the fast lane
Sunday 15 December 1996
Rhodes became the youngest British champion for 57 years when just weeks after his 20th birthday he stopped the former World Boxing Organisation champion Paul "Silky" Jones in the eighth round to win the vacant British light-middleweighut title, but Andries' bid to become Britain's oldest ever champion was battered to a one-sided defeat by Johnny Nelson in seven rounds of their cruiserweight title clash.
Rhodes' victory came just as it seemed that his big test may have arrived too soon, after just 11 pro fights. The first six rounds had been even, if unspectacular, Rhodes landing the harder single blows but Jones showing the gulf in experience as he frequently made him miss and countered sharply. Rhodes switched constantly between southpaw and orthodox stances, having most success when he managed to drive Jones back to the ropes, but he appeared to be tiring in the seventh as Jones stepped up the pace.
Jones landed a solid right early in the eighth which drew blood from Rhodes' nose and the youngster looked briefly disorientated before landing a right hook. Jones clowned, dropping his arms and doing a pretend wobble, but Rhodes stepped straight in with another right hook and sent Jones sprawling face first. He clambered up at the count of eight, but the referee Richie Davies looked in his eyes and decided he could not continue. There were just seven seconds remaining of the round.
Nelson completed a memorable double for the Sheffield trainer Brendan Ingle, who has guided him throughout most of his erratic career. Nelson has rarely boxed better than he did against Andries, dominating every moment of the fight. He rocked the veteran repeatedly with accurate hooks and uppercuts and kept him off balance and unsettled with stinging left jabs.
Nelson has spent the last four years in virtual exile after a string of miserably dull performances at home scared off British promoters. But this was him back to his best, bubbling with confidence as he taunted the ancient Andries to the point of humiliation.
Andries, whose age could be anywhere between 43 and 48, fought like a man whose attention was on the bankruptcy courts, where he has a date with the inland revenue, rather than on Nelson, and he could not console himself with even a momentary success.
John Keane's intervention exactly halfway through the seventh round was impeccably timed: Andries had not been hurt, but was clearly booked for an overwhelming points defeat. It was a sad spectacle, but the former three times World Boxing Council light-heavyweight champion received scant sympathy from the winner. "I'd have beaten Andries at his best," Nelson said. Maybe, but this was an occasion when a little compassion would not have been out of place.
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