HENRY AKINWANDE - SCOTT WELSH (WBO heavyweight title) Nashville Arena, Tennessee - January 11, 1997 Like Frank Bruno, Scott Welsh has been hyped beyond his ability by the British media. This publicity did more to earn him this heavyweight title challenge than his achievements in the ring which are, in reality, quite modest. It also led some commentators - who should know better - to giving Welsh a chance against Akinwande. In fact Welsh - being that rare and (sadly) treasured commodity: a white heavyweight who can be matched with a World champion without major outcry - didn't have to work as hard as Bruno to catch the public eye. Fortunately for boxing however, its champions are the levellers who separate the potentials from the pretenders. Just as Bruno was levelled by Tyson last year, Welsh was brutally exposed by Henry Akinwande. After twelve uninspiring rounds, Akinwande's dominance was reflected in the judges' scorecards: 119-110 and 120-108 twice. Henry was streets ahead of Welsh in every department - accuracy, speed, footwork and sharpness. Even as the champion coasted through the middle rounds Welsh failed to ruffle his fellow Briton. Every round of this fight was basically a repeat of the first when the 6ft 7in champion played matador to Welsh's bull - like style. He was a matador with a sting however, and Welsh showed a glaring inability to slip Akinwande's solid left jabs and straight rights as he tried to bring the battle in close. In the second round Welsh even butted Akinwande in frustration. Henry does lack charisma, but he deserves more recognition for his silky skills. In fact the unbeaten fighter has been troubled more by lack of public interest than by any of his opponents to date - that this heavyweight title fight propped up the bill accentuated this fact. In truth, the Englishman is a champion who will be very hard to beat. At the break between the eleventh and final rounds, trainer Jim Mc Donnell desperately urged Welsh to knock the champion out. He held up a photo of Welsh's two year - old son to spur his man on, feeling Scott had only one chance of taking the title. In reality he had no chance - the gulf in class was simply too great. Meanwhile Don Turner told Akinwande to finish the challenger: not because he was concerned about the result but because he wanted his charge to impress. So both men rose at the bell and Henry won the twelfth easily - as he won every round on my card - to retain his belt. FELIX TRINIDAD - KEVIN LUESHING (IBF welterweight title) Nashville Arena, Tennessee - January 11, 1997 Felix Trinidad stopped Kevin Lueshing in round three to retain his IBF welterweight title and to clear the way for an exciting showdown with Terry Norris. This potentially thrilling encounter was spoiled by the tentative approach of both men. Round one drew boos from the crowd as the combatants circled one another, scoring only four or five punches between them. In the second the Englishman hurt Trinidad with a short left hook which sent the champion reeling to the canvas. This was no great advantage to Lueshing as the Puerto Rican has been floored in round two by Alberto Cortes, Yori Boy Campas and Oba Carr, rising to win each time. Any advantage Lueshing did gain quickly evaporated as he failed to follow up, choosing instead to box off the back foot. The challenger needs to learn how to use his explosive power going forward - he is only effective as a counterpuncher, a style which is suicidal against someone of 'Tito's' calibre. Midway through round three Trinidad floored Lueshing, also with a left hook, and refused to let his opponent recover. He stalked 'The Look' menacingly and nailed him again with a right uppercut - left hook combination. Lueshing just about beat the count only to fall again from a straight left at the bell, and this time the referee stepped in. ALSO ON THE NASHVILLE BILL KHALID RAHILOU produced an edxceptional performance to upset WBA light welterweight champion FRANKIE RANDALL. The Frenchman dominated throughout and stopped Randall in round eleven. NICK RUPA displayed tremendous courage and durability before finally crumbling to IBF and WBC light middleweight champion TERRY NORRIS in round ten. Although outclassed and outpunched, Rupa refused to wilt until this session when Norris floored him twice to retain his titles. DANIEL ZARAGOZA - WAYNE MC CULLOUGH (WBC super bantamweight title) Hynes Convention Center, Boston - January 11, 1997 Daniel Zaragoza appeared ageless as he outboxed Wayne Mc Cullough over twelve rounds to retain his WBC super bantamweight title. The crafty veteran made the Irishman fight his fight, and actually threw more punches than Mc Cullough - a feat previously unthinkable, especially by a 39 year - old - for the majority of what was a thrilling contest. The Mexican technician refused to allow 'The Pocket Rocket' to work, fending him off with sharp, straight lefts and rights. Both men entered the ring with a gameplan but Zaragoza stuck to his more effectively. Junior Jones walked away from his ringside seat after the fifth round, deflated in the knowledge that a unification bout with Zaragoza would not be as lucrative as on against Mc Cullough. Wayne entered the ring wearing a Patriots jersey, as if he needed to win the audience over. Judging by the crowd's response to Mc Cullough, this might as well have been Belfast. This didn't ruffle the champion in the slightest however - he always seems to be the away fighter. Mc Cullough has always neglected his defence in favour of an all - action pressure style, but in this fight he was made to pay for adopting such a strategy. Zaragoza preserved his energy by making every shot count. Time after time he cooly blocked Wayne's combinations while resting on the ropes only to rally back defiantly. The Irishman had never fought a southpaw in his professional career, and Zaragoza capitalised on this fact. Wayne was also returning from a six month layoff - the longest so far in his career. From the beginning, 'The Pocket Rocket' was being countered cleanly every time he tried to get off with his punches. He needed to keep the champion off balance, but instead was being pummelled with body shots - one hook to the ribs at the end of round five seemed to sap all the energy from Mc Cullough. By the start of round eight Mc Cullough had begun to claw his way back on the scorecards after losing the first four. The Mexican - who has been twelve rounds more times than any active fighter - refused to wilt however, winning the next three. In the last two rounds Wayne showed magnificent heart to shove Zaragoza back and finally out - pressure the champion. This really was something from the Irishman considering Zaragoza's cornermen said he was "ready to go" at the end of round four. He dominated more clearly here than either man had previously, but although Zaragoza was practically out on his feet at the end it was all too late for Wayne. The scores were 114-115 and 116-112 twice.
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