Amir Khan, Skelton vs. Williams: Beauty in Boxing

26.02.06 - By MICHAEL KLIMES: Albert Einstein once proclaimed, ‘The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.’

After watching Matt Skelton battle Danny Williams and Amir Khan obliterate Jackson Williams I am feeling slightly romantic. Why so? I am seeing, with some pride, that Britain has produced a boxer in Khan, who, in only his sixth bout is looking like a consummate professional. Williams and Skelton, meanwhile, put a on a spectacle (even by standards of American heavyweights that have traditionally been the gatekeepers of the division), which has reignited the heavyweight scene in our little island of Britain. Williams correctly redeemed himself and the concept of the British heavyweight clash after the farce with Audley Harrison.

At the beginning of the evening at the ExceL Arena in London, former featherweight champion Barry McGuigan said Jackson Williams was ‘a step up in class’ for Khan. Like all his previous opponents, Khan comfortably outclassed him in three rounds. The silver medallist demonstrated an abundance of gifts that only come to naturals: Footwork, combination punching, defence, reflexes, power and balance. It is true Khan is still very young, only nineteen years old but what a nineteen year old he is! He mastered an adversary five years older than him with a snake like jab that he doubled and trebled.. This jab acted for Khan’s other shots; his most impressive in this outing were the body punches. A beautiful left hook sunk Williams to the canvas and after the referee stepped in to halt the affair.

Khan could eventually become the Roger Federer of boxing. What marks him out above other boxers, even fighters that are far ahead of him such as Floyd Mayweather is his attitude. Khan has a maturity that is astounding. He does not feel a need to bad mouth others through the extensive press coverage he gets.

After the fight a commentator interviewed one of my all time favourite fighters and a stellar ring presence I deeply miss; ‘The Prince’ Naseem Hamed lofted praise upon Khan and seemed mellow compared to his former glory days (perhaps a good thing!). Hamed declared, ‘Speed, accuracy, broke the man down, took him out. What can I say?’

Hamed also made a crucial point reinforced by McGuigan that Khan must not be rushed into a title shot. Khan has worryingly talked about getting a world title shot within a year. Hamed seemed agitated at the suggestion made by the commentator replying, ‘I don’t think he needs it this year.

You’ve got Amir for a good two to three years before he steps up to that kind of class.’ Hamed must have been remembering his past life as a boxer, the naked ambition and precocious talents he once exhibited now burn on in Khan.

Frank Warren, Khan’s promoter has said,’ I can’t tell you how good he looks.’ Warren also once said an even greater thing about Hamed before it went downhill, ‘I think at one stage he was the most exciting fighter that I'd ever been involved with. At one stage, in the early part of his career, he could have gone on to become one of the great fighters. But that disappeared when he didn't fight as regularly as he should have done, when he was cutting corners on his training. It just didn't work out for him from that point on.’ Khan must not follow this road as it can all unwind very easily.

Skelton vs. Williams:

When Skelton came to the ring he looked scared. He had that fearful look on his face, which Mike Tyson had before he fought Lennox Lewis. Williams, on the other hand looked more cold hearted, more merciless.

The first round saw both finding each other with jabs. Both landed but the cleaner punches and therefore round went to Williams.

In Round Two the exchanges heated up, particularly towards the last minute where Skelton turned himself out of a corner with Williams in the process and landed a magnificent upper cut that sapped his strength. Credit went to Williams though as he retained some sense of control after a crushing punch.

The first part of the third round went to Skelton as he was confusingly out jabbing Williams. However, the tide quickly turned as Williams started stinging with his jab and he landed a good left hand lead. Williams finished off the round stronger, probably just enough to steal it but the close nature of the bout thus far would repeat itself through out the contest making it hard to score.

The fourth round went to the classier Williams who portrayed the more skillful side of the trade. A lovely feint was shown when Williams had Skelton on the ropes; William glanced towards the referee and then unloaded an excellent left-right combination. The competition in the bout was fierce up to this point as the bell rung but neither fighter returned to their corners.

In the following round Skelton also gave Williams a mocking smile after he was blasted with a huge right hand over the top of his glove.

In the sixth round, Williams’s better skills were reaping rewards. William’s was outworking and outscoring Skelton with meaningful double jabs that came through Skelton’s weaker defense.

Round Seven saw the fight heading towards Skelton as this proved to be the dirtiest round, with Skelton successfully delivering a foul game to break William’s established rhythm. He pushed William’s down twice from the ropes and was knocked down himself by accidentally tripping over William’s leg. He received a good left hook from but got his revenge with another damaging upper cut. The round was partially stopped to tighten up the ropes. Some begun to ask whether Skelton should have a point deducted for his ongoing antics?

There are two opinions on any brawlers like Skelton who are controversial through a scrappy style. One is they should fight cleanly (as far as it is possible for them) or they must be allowed to get away with certain crimes because that is how the win. In credit to Skelton, his tactics were working from Round Seven onwards as he was winning the fight more. Conversely he did push out the boat a bit too far out and in my opinion the referee should have been stiffer in instilling discipline.

Round Eight saw both taking a rest and getting ready for the second wind to break in. Williams seemed a bit desperate as he was searching to unleash his big right hand. Round Nine witnessed a huge clash of heads, miraculously there were no cuts.

Rounds Eleven and Twelve produced some mesmerizing exchanges. Skelton won Round Eleven but Williams put on a fabulous finale where Skelton’s head was bleeding and the blood was washed into the referee’s shirt. Just after Williams hurt Skelton badly he slipped over. Skelton had waddled into him. When the referee directed Skelton to a neutral corner he could not walk in a straight line. Williams was dangerously close to finishing Skelton but he could not manage it. Skelton proved what a gladiator he was by not retreating and trying to mount a counterattack.

The judges announced a split decision in favor of Williams (115-114, 114-115 and 116-113) which seemed fair because Skelton was not deducted a point. Styles made this fight and although it was not the most skillful of bouts each demonstrated admirable heart and desire which has been elusive in the heavyweights. Skelton was bitterly disappointed, maybe even sad but he has nothing to ashamed of as does Williams who concluded of his adversary, ‘Skelton is a warrior’ and ‘he is very awkward to fight…he pushed me all the way, big respect, just go back to the gym, work hard, you’re a tremendous fighter.’

It was lovely to see the chivalry the two showed with an embrace at the ring of the final bell. Williams will either go onto fight the behemoth Nicolay Valuev or maybe enter a rematch with Skelton, who knows? Some will undoubtedly feel Skelton was robbed whilst others will feel there should be a default rematch because it was such a close fight.

One thing is for sure and that is both fighters, the fans and the heavyweight scene in general is better off from this bright encounter. Hopefully both can go onto bigger and better accomplishments.

Article posted on 27.02.2006

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