Tommy Barber – London
In a fight of two halves, experienced Rob Norton adopted a typically negative and awkward tactic as he successfully duped British cruiserweight title challenger Leon Williams with his southpaw stance. In the second half of the contest – staged at the York Hall in Bethnal Green, London on Friday, October 21 – Williams gradually upped the tempo before finally coming alive in the 12th and final round.
Judges verdict: 116-114, 116-113, 114-115 in favour of Williams.
Within seconds of occupying the centre of the ring, Williams found Norton an arduously hard target to land on and struggled to circumvent his awkward posturing. A tall leftie, Norton boxed with his hands low, using upper body movement and foot movement to maneuver away from the challenger’s shots. Despite his tentative fighting, Norton was an accurate puncher and connected with jabs.
In the second round, Williams paid too much respect to the champion when he really needed to take the fight to his opponent. By becoming too aware of Norton’s ability to counter, Williams relinquished the authority to Norton, who was busying himself by attaching the left cross to his looping unorthodox southpaw jab. Boxing with a smile, Norton was attempting to psyche out Williams – a fact supported by his choice words to his opponent whenever the bell was rung to signify the end of a round.
Williams’ insistence to throw solitary shots inhibited his ability to gain an upper hand. There was no sign whatsoever of effective pressure and he only registered one power punch – a right hand – in the whole round. A sign of his struggles, it drew a huge round of cheers from the crowd. Norton, though, raised his arms as if to say ‘that all you got?’ before returning to jab, jab, jab away at Williams.
Whilst there was no denying it was a fight that lacked aggression, in rounds four, five and six it remained clear that it was Norton who was fighting his kind of fight. Norton was winning the fight with his portside jab and right cross combo alone. Williams, meanwhile, would only score with single power punches struck, on average, once a round. If Williams put punches together he’d have a greater chance of turning the tie in his favour yet every time he landed his right hand, he’d take a step back, rather than force the fight.
Williams sprung to life in round seven as he flurried at Norton when the latter had been found guilty of static foot movement in a neutral corner. Instead of capitalising on the success of the seventh, Williams fell back into the trap of allowing Norton to move rather than pin him against a turnbuckle or the ropes. Midway through the round, Williams combo’d at Norton’s midsection. In the final minute, though, Norton fired two one-two moves in swift succession at Williams’ head. Norton returned to his stool with a slight cut to the side of his right eye.
By even forcing a modicum of pressure, Williams was applying a greater work-rate than he had in the first three quarters of the bout. Williams enjoyed three good spells of superiority in the tenth round and all arrived when Norton was pressed against the corner and allowing Williams to come onto him and let his hands go. This occurred in the 11th round also, as a tired looking Norton used less movement, took respites in the corner and was forced to trade – which did not suit him.
The most entertaining round of the bout was the last as both fighters finally traded slugs. Norton looked unsteady and hopelessly tired but fought back as hard as he could. Williams pushed the British champ back to the ropes and – like his corner instructed – put his punches together by tagging Norton with uppercuts, and short-range hooks and straights.
Norton paid the price for his spoiling game-plan as two of the ringside judges scored a fight in favour of Williams who was crowned the new cruiserweight king of Britain: “I’m not going to say it was easy, it was a hard fight,” said Norton on Box Nation with the Lonsdale belt wrapped around his midsection. “I’m fit, strong and am British champion now. It was the first time I fought a southpaw so I got to be cautious,” stated the new titlist regarding his cagey start to the fight.
With the majority decision win, Williams’ record now stands at 9-3-0, 4ko while Norton fell to 32-5-2, 19ko.