DEAN Francis put in a brave performance but was left with nothing other than pride to show for his efforts at the end of an entertaining British title bout against Bob Ajisafe in Reading on Saturday night.
As the combatants stood with the referee, waiting for their fates to be revealed after 12 brutal rounds, their faces told the story of the fight.
The swelling around Francis’ eyes left him peering through little more than slits, with bruising beginning to show across his face. The 40-year-old had been brave but had taken too many shots.
On the other side of the ring, Ajisafe, 12 years Francis’ junior, was not unmarked, but it was clear that he had taken far less punishment than his opponent.
Throughout the British light-heavyweight title fight, Ajisafe’s extra reach and awkward southpaw style asked Francis questions that he was unable to answer.
A three-and-a-half inch height advantage meant that the Leeds man was able to keep his opponent at arm’s length. His stinging jab did much of the damage and prevented Francis from getting close enough to land the powerful shots he is known for.
It was Ajisafe’s jab that dominated the opening two rounds but Francis hit back in the third, wobbling his opponent with two clean right hands. However, it was the Leeds man who ended the round with a flourish of punches.
After a scrappy fourth round, it was the fifth that saw Ajisafe take charge of the contest.
Francis began it well, showing quick feet to make his opponent miss before catching him with a couple of good shots, but he was lucky to survive the final 14 seconds.
A big left hand from Ajisafe had Francis on the back foot and two more in quick succession had him in real trouble on the ropes. For a moment, it looked like referee Ian John Lewis might be about to step in and stop the contest as Ajisafe rained in punches, but Francis showed outstanding determination to stay on his feet and survive until the end of the round.
The bell certainly saved him and Ajisafe could smell blood. Three times in the following round Francis looked in trouble when caught by his opponent’s left hand, saved once by a slip from Ajisafe when he was struggling and losing his gumshield on another occasion.
Francis hit back in the seventh round but was in trouble again midway through the eighth. A left hand had him backed into his own corner and another snapped his head back.
Again ‘Deano’ refused to hit the canvas, moving away and even hurting Ajisafe with a good combination late in the round.
As the fighters began to tire, the next two rounds were more cautious affairs and while Francis was trapped on the ropes momentarily in round 11, Ajisafe was unable to properly connect.
Knowing that he was probably behind on the judges’ scorecards, Francis went on the attack in the final round, catching his opponent with a right hook early on.
However, it was Ajisafe who ended the fight on top. Another big blow from the Yorkshireman’s left hand had Francis back on the ropes and he followed it up with an equally powerful right hook.
Again, the Basingstoke man refused to go down, holding on to reach the final bell and go the distance.
It was clear that Ajisafe had won and the judges came to a unanimous decision in his favour, meaning it was the Leeds man, and not Francis, who took home the Lonsdale belt.