Michael Sprott Becomes British Heavyweight Champion

26.01.04 - By Elliot Worsell at Ringside: Last night at the Wembley Conference Centre Reading’s Michael Sprott 25-6 (13 KO’s) realised his lifelong ambition of becoming British heavyweight champion by out pointing an unlucky and out of sorts champion Danny Williams 29-3 (24 KO’s). It was 3rd time lucky for new champion Sprott, after being stopped twice previously by Williams, albeit the last one seemingly via foul means.

The controversy this time centred on the scoring of referee Dave Parris, who, in many people’s eyes, wrongly scored the fight 115-114 to Sprott, when it seemed Williams deserved the nod. Scoring a fight is obviously a very subjective and opinion orientated business, but it seemed that Parris resented the hands down, goading swagger Williams carried throughout the fight, and leaned positively towards the workmanlike graft of Southern Area champ Sprott.

The 28 year old Sprott, in truth, didn’t do enough early in the fight to win. With his high guard and measured approach, Sprott was just content with walking down the champion and firing solitary jabs to the head to start off his attacks. This method worked wonders for Sprott in the second bout with Williams, but that was purely down to the fact that Williams looked cumbersome, lethargic, and was a sitting target for the quicksilver challenger all night up until the end of the 4th.

This time though, Williams showed a different side to his game. In the 1st and 2nd rounds his intent was clear. Reeling off to the ropes, Williams would fire a rapier like jab out from his hands down guard, and continually move side to side. Sprott looked confused at times, as Williams grew in confidence as the opening rounds progressed.

Most of Sprott’s work fell short in the early stages, and it appeared from the outset that Michael was wary of the power and natural strength this tank like fighter possessed in front of him. Williams was reading left jab after left jab, and had no trouble whatsoever in slipping, riding and ducking all of Sprott’s incoming ammunition. It was a good display of defensive boxing from Williams.

The 3rd round was injected with a bit of passion and bite as Williams turned his back on his fired up challenger and was duly wrestled to the floor by Sprott. For Michael, it was a chance to show Williams he wouldn’t be getting it all his own way. The chance to show he could hang with the champion in terms of physical strength and desire.

Nevertheless Williams wasn’t deterred in the slightest. He carried the face of a very confident, cocky young fighter on the up, and was implementing slick defensive moves and sharp, fast jabs to confuse the come forward Sprott. Michael was fighting the wrong kind of fight. Essentially Sprott is a cute boxer with a good jab off the back foot. Williams, possibly by choice rather than chance, was beating the slick Sprott at his own game.

In the 4th and 5th Williams began to open his box of tricks, much to the disdain of referee Parris who quickly closed the box. Whether it a show of his supreme confidence or a mental weakness, Williams was trying to mess with the mind of Sprott. He would wipe his shoulder after deflecting a blow on it. He would offer Sprott his left glove. It appeared that Williams was not only content at beating Sprott in the sport of boxing, but he’d also fancy his chances at ‘pattercake’. It was all needless really, but it infuriated the loyal Reading fans, and bemused Sprott, so from Danny’s viewpoint, it had the desired effect.

Parris soon wiped off the smug look on Danny’s face though when he told the bulky champion ‘do you want to fight, or do you want to play?’ Williams got the message. He bucked his ideas up in the 6th and concentrated his attacks more to the mid section of Sprott. He dug in some tasty looking left and right hooks to the challengers gut before Sprott wheeled away complaining that one or two slipped low. Déjà vu struck the erratic champion, and Parris warned him to keep em’ up.

Williams had obviously spotted some kind of weakness there though, as he continued to raid Sprott’s body in search of the money shot. He’d whip out a left jab to the head followed by a raking right to the body as Sprott came forward. High guard and all, the fact is, Sprott didn’t really have an answer. Although Michael was sharp with the left lead, and was stalking the champion down, you would be hard pressed to give him much of the first 6 rounds. Williams was tutoring Sprott with a good display of back foot jabbing and moving, albeit with a slightly outlandish tinge to it.

The 7th round was a breakthrough round of sorts for Sprott. He received a timely reminder that he could hit and hurt the champion via an impressive two-punch barrage towards the rounds end. As Williams became slightly overconfident, Sprott kept his game face and unleashed a snappy, accurate right cross followed by a left jab cum hook which staggered the legs of the well built Williams. Unfortunately for the Reading man, the bell rung soon after.

Given Williams’ shall we say ‘iffy’ state of mind, it was unknown whether he would fold in the following round or continue what he had been doing 7 rounds previous. In truth Sprott tried to take advantage of his home run combination in the 7th, but Williams shook most of Sprott’s shots off with ease. Danny greased up the chain and reverted to his bike again, as he tried to pick off Sprott from range. There was much more urgency and ‘bounce’ in Sprott’s work, but he was still content to just throw the occasional out of range jab, and then fall into the open arms of the champion as he lounged on the ropes. Whether you perceive Williams’ strange antics as the behaviour of a supremely confident athlete well in control, or a worried man being outworked by a more dedicated challenger is up to you, it appeared Parris had made his mind up though.

The closing stages of the fight were fought at close quarters along the ropes, how Williams seemingly liked it. Both were tiring, and given Sprott’s new acquaintance with the ‘9th round’ it was unsurprising. Sprott had never been beyond 8 before, and this proved pivotal it would have appeared, to the outcome of this fight. Despite the ‘gee up’ he was receiving time and time again from his trainers John Bloomfield and Dean Powell; Sprott just couldn’t keep up a sustained attack on Williams. Danny wasn’t producing vintage stuff in there, but was doing enough purely with his left jab and left uppercut to remain in cruise control.

The final rounds were infuriating at times, because it appeared both men believed they were well on their way to title triumph. Neither looked to try and pull it out the bag. Williams would have scored endless amounts of points if it was a game of ‘Charades’, but his fakes, shimmy’s and feints weren’t putting a smile on the face of the referee or the many fans packed into the plush conference centre. Sprott on the other hand, despite being fatigued and void of a knockout punch took the fight to Danny, and at least looked like a man who had come to fight.

The 12th round, so often a pivotal, noteworthy moment in big title fights, was a nothing round here as both guys just cancelled each other out. Perhaps they are too familiar with each other. Perhaps they have gone stale with each other’s company. Either way, Williams was content to just focus purely on the jab and a great deal of goading, and Sprott tried in vain to fire jabs, followed by rights and hooks, but to no avail. The everlasting image from the 12th came at the rounds end as Danny offered his left glove to an angered and frustrated Sprott. Michael declined, but was soon cheered up when Dave Parris offered his hand.

Sprott was handed the 115-114 decision and the British and commonwealth titles in the process, much to the delight of his Reading faithful who had impressively packed the conference centre.

Michael is a solid, skilled, hard working boxer who, on Saturday night, was gifted the prize that all British heavyweights aspire to achieve. He became the British heavyweight champion, and although the decision was hugely controversial, and although perhaps Williams deserved the nod, nothing should be taken away from Michael Sprott. A man who has changed his career around, and finally figured out the rubix cube, the enigma that is Danny Williams at the 3rd attempt.

Article posted on 26.01.2004

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