22nd October 2011

I’m sure there have been worse British title fights at the York Hall over the years, I cant remember many, but on Friday night at the famous London venue, Rob Norton and Leon ‘Solid’ Williams did their best to top the charts in a forgettable fight, that until the last round had stunk the place out.
TV Channel BoxNation had started off their brand new coverage with a couple of classy top of the card British battles already. In September Liam Walsh and Paul Appleby entertained the York Hall crowd in Queensbury Boxing Promotions first televised show with the fledgling TV station. And last week Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew thrilled in Liverpool with a light-heavyweight war. But Norton and Williams quickly brought the BoxNation honeymoon period to an abrupt end this weekend.

Norton, 39, appeared to have hung onto his title at the final bell and in-turn also lay claim to the British belt out right, in this the third defence of the title he won in 2008. But when the scorecards came back reading a split decision in Williams favour, (although the MC mistakenly called it a majority decision) there were a few baffled by the verdict!

Judges Richie Davies and Ian John Lewis both marked the fight in favour of Williams with scores of 116-114 and 116-113 respectively while John Keane, gave it to Norton 115-114.

If the good old fashioned boxing quote ‘You have to take the champions belt away from him to win it’ still stands in the fight game, then what happened? Williams did almost nothing for ten rounds, throwing single shots he barely grazed the champion and his only success of note to that point was in the tenth round when Norton decided to rest his arms on the top ropes and beckon Williams in to hit him.

Williams, 27, from Streatham in London, seems like a relaxed character and  almost horizontally laid back out of the ring and in pre fight interviews. He took this persona into the fight with him and frustratingly never got going and you always felt he was better than what he was showing. He was obviously nervous in the biggest fight of his career and cautious of the rangy awkward southpaw Norton, who himself wasn’t forthcoming in getting into range of Williams.

The fight wore on and is best forgotten in large, but I just couldn’t see a round that Williams did anything worthy enough of winning a session outright. The last three rounds can all be argued in favor for William’s, especially the last round when the challenger eventually opened up and landed well on the tired Norton with good uppercuts.

Norton’s performance also left a lot to be desired and in the same vain should the British title holder be held responsible for performing to the standard we expect from the country’s talisman at cruiserweight who is trying to hang onto it for keeps.

Both men had trained hard for the fight, there is no doubting that, but it was sparring pace at best and Lord Lonsdale would not be best pleased to have put his name to this one. Norton didn’t put in a champions performance and Williams didn’t do enough to take it, so make your own conclusions.

It isn’t one to be replayed to try and see what the judges were looking at and I’m sure Williams himself wont be pleased with his performance when he looks back, but he will obviously be delighted with the result and his new belt.

In the first part of the contest Norton created space between himself and Williams, as he pawed away at his challenger with his long southpaw jab and looping right hand. They never landed flush enough to trouble Williams and vice versa, but it was Norton who was although talking a lot was working, while Williams looked short of ideas and snap.

When Williams now (9-3-4KOs) did throw a cluster of shots on the rare occasion, they tended to just miss the target and the pair would end up in a messy tangle on the ropes, almost coming over the top of them on a couple of occasions. The referee also had to warn both at variuos times to clean up there act and I’m sure a call to get the action going must have been said by the official.

Norton from Stourbridge in Worcestershire is an hard foe to hit clean, he holds his arms low and with a wide stance leans back to gain a wide distance between his head and his opponents fists and Williams couldn’t get to grips with it. Williams seemed guilty of showing Norton too much respect and he appeared to have frozen under the pressure of the big night, well that was a note made, to try and explain his lack of drive.

Williams had his first sign of any real success in round 10, when Norton decided to rest his long arms on the ropes and Williams scored with some good punches as he took up Norton’s call to attack him.

In the final two rounds, Williams did show a little of what he could have been capable of all night and eventually started to throw punches with intent and at one point a flush right uppercut seemed to unsettle the legs of a very tired Norton, Williams followed up but the bell sounded to end the fight.

Norton now (32-5-2-19KOs) became very tired in the last third of the contest and Williams could well have forced a stoppage if he had put on more pressure earlier. But this being only his 12th fight and first twelve rounder, it seemed he doubted his championship stamina, but needn’t have and proved to be in good shape physically, ending the fight looking the fresher of the pair.

And so we have a new British cruiserweight champion and in a division that isn’t bursting with names that role off the tongue, Williams has a chance to prove he is better than this performance in his first defence as champion. Becoming the title holder, be it the hardway, Williams may grow into the role and can only improve. Although it isnt a fight that will get the pulses racing, Norton will surely try and claim a rematch considering the close nature of the fight. But at 39 years old Norton’s better days look to be behind him. But under the guidence of coaches Johnny Eames and Barry Smith, Williams can only improve from here.

Undercard results from the York Hall
Ryan Walsh one of the three fighting brothers from
Cromer in Norfolk outpointed Liam Richards over 10 rounds to win the vacant English super bantamweight title. At welterweight Dean Byrne outpointed Michael Frontin over 8 rounds.

By Chris Maylett

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