Brave Skelton fails in his bid for the world heavyweight crown

Last updated at 11:41 20 January 2008

Matt Skelton showed great heart but fell short in his bid to wrest the WBA

heavyweight title from Ruslan Chagaev as he dropped a unanimous points verdict

in Dusseldorf.

The 40-year-old from Bedford gave the champion plenty to think about but his

lack of boxing ability cost him dear and the cleaner shots of Chagaev earned him

victory by scores of 117-110, 117-111 (twice).

Matt Skelton

It brought an end to Skelton's "fairytale" chance at the illustrious title

just seven years after making his belated professional debut at the age of 33,

and at least maintained his record of having never been stopped.

It was not exactly a straightforward first defence for the Uzbek, who often

laboured and was frequently knocked out of his stride but proved he possesses

the best left-handed counter-punch in the business.

Skelton performed above expectation having scored a dreadful points win over

Michael Sprott last July - ironically a performance which probably earned his

shot against a champion looking for a routine first defence.

Routine it was not. But it was always likely Chagaev, a magnificent amateur

with two world titles to his name, was going to prove too clever for the

relatively one-dimensional Briton.

Skelton had started well, wrestling himself inside and scoring enough early

success to take the opener against a champion who looked content to bide his


Renowned for those crisp counter-shots which helped him dispose of Russian

giant Nikolai Valuev last year to claim the title, the Uzbek started the second

round better and connected with two trademark lefts.

It was unsurprisingly developing into a scrappy affair, and referee Guillermo

Perez broke up the action to warn Skelton about punching round the back of

Chagaev's head.

Moving cleverly, Chagaev found room to clatter another fine left into the side

of his opponent's head, but the Briton shook it off and started the third in

superb fashion behind a neatly functioning jab.

He might be nicknamed the 'White Tyson', but Chagaev's thunderous lefts were

having little impact on Skelton's chin and the bell signalled the end of

probably the best three rounds of the challenger's career.

Taller by three inches and weighing in almost two stones heavier, Skelton was

seeking to use those advantages to maximum effect by boring in close and

unsettling Chagaev.

But the Uzbek's powerful left hands helped him clearly take round four and for

all Skelton's admirable intent, it was the champion's cleaner and much cleverer

work which was winning him the rounds.

Two excellent hooks right at the end of the fifth had Skelton holding on for

the first time but he responded well, clawing in closer in the sixth which

negated the left hand of Chagaev but drew booing from the capacity crowd.

Skelton, who for all his competitiveness had probably only claimed the first

round on the judges' cards, ended the sixth bleeding from the nose and things

got worse when he walked into two booming lefts early in the seventh.

The challenger responded with an excellent left uppercut of his own and

possibly just shaded the seventh. Chagaev was probably wishing he had not picked

Skelton as his voluntary opponent after all.

Skelton was deducted a point in the eighth round but it was unlikely to matter

at that stage, with Chagaev barging his way into a big lead without ever really

looking like a convincing champion.

Chagaev ended the ninth by jolting Skelton across the ring with a stiff hook

and poured in big shots at the start of the 10th, again failing to shake the

admirable resolve of his opponent.

Skelton continued battling until the final bell but he was almost out on his

feet as Chagaev roared forward before both fighters responded with a warm

embrace after a surprisingly entertaining affair.