by James Slater – Last night, in Birmingham, UK, 37-year-old Rob Norton successfully defended his British cruiserweight title with an extremely eventful points win over the much younger David Dolan of Sunderland. As well as defending his British title for the first time, the veteran southpaw from Worcestershire also picked up the vacant commonwealth championship. In winning by scores of 116-109, 115-110 and a slightly more realistic 114-111, Norton really had his hands full..
No less than five knockdowns were witnessed by a vocal and more often than not standing crowd last night – with the British champ going down three times and the challenger going down twice. However, three of these officially ruled knockdowns were, with the benefit of TV replay, nothing of the kind. No-one is saying referee Dave Parris is a poor third man of the ring – far from it – it’s just that three of his calls, having to be made instantly, of course, were ones that turned out to be wrong. Both men, Norton in the 8th round and Dolan in the 6th and 11th rounds, complained bitterly when they were administered counts, and rightly so. Norton simply lost his balance at the end of the 8th, and Dolan was barely touched by a right hand in the 6th and hit on the arm in the 11th.
The real knockdowns that occurred in the fight could well have ended the contest, though. Dolan, the younger man at 29, twice decked his man with quick and pin-point accurate right hands in round number four. Norton was up quickly from the first knockdown and largely unhurt, but his second trip to the mat, right at the end of the round, was a hard one. Looking for all the world like a man totally gone, somehow Norton made it back to his corner after the bell had gone and cleared his head. Only a truly remarkable display of recuperative powers saw to it that the champion came out looking okay in the 5th!
With his hands held dangerously low at times, the 37-year-old who relies on reflexes that are still sharp after over fifteen years in the sport, edged his way back into the entertaining fight. It really was a close affair all the way, though, which made the eventual scores of the judges seem all the more baffling. This writer had Norton up by a single point, and Dolan, who can and will come again, certainly had the right to go home feeling aggrieved at being deemed a seven point loser, as he was by the reckoning of one judge.
Interviewed post-fight, Norton admitted Dolan came on in the final round, but he also said he felt his superior fitness won him the fight. Astonishingly, considering his age compared to Dolan’s, this was probably the case. The former heavyweight who dropped down to cruiserweight in July of last year certainly pushed the older man hard all night, and the champion who now holds two titles spoke of a rematch, saying he’d love to do it again down the road.
Dolan, who went 12 rounds for the first time in his life, will surely relish the opportunity. If a second fight is as dramatic and eventful as last night’s scuffle was, the fans will again enjoy themselves.
Norton, who is enjoying some well earned late success as a pro, improved to 31-4-1(19). Dolan, in losing as a cruiser for the first time, fell to 11-2(4).