Dean Francis gave it his best shot – but now is the right time for him to retire

AFTER losing his British light-heavyweight title fight against Bob Ajisafe on Saturday, Basingstoke boxer Dean Francis has announced that his long career is at an end.

Of course, it’s not the first time that he has made such an announcement, but this time, at the age of 40, it seems like there is no coming back.

In truth, on the evidence of his fight against Ajisafe on Saturday, Francis was a bit long in the tooth when he made his latest and final comeback. He looked lean and was fit enough to take the fight 12 rounds, but as he admitted afterwards, his feet were no longer quick enough to keep him out of trouble.

I’m still not sure exactly how he managed to avoid being knocked down over the course of the bout, particularly at the end of the fifth round, while his face was not a pretty sight by the time the final bell went.

What kept Francis coming back was an unshakable belief that he was capable of winning a world title. Sadly, that ship probably sailed in the late 1990s, when he was considered a genuine contender.

A dislocated shoulder, which plagued him for the rest of his career, followed by a spell behind bars following an incident outside a takeaway shop, meant he was away from the sport for a four-year period when he should have been in his prime.

That’s the real shame here. We never got to see the best of Francis. The good news is that he seems to have finally accepted that fact, meaning he will not be tempted to return to the ring.

It might be a while before Basingstoke can boast a boxer with Francis’ talent, but I think I speak for everyone in the town when I wish him all the best for a long future away from the ring.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Exciting climax to the Six Nations

RUGBY’S Six Nations championship came to an exciting climax on Saturday, Ireland pipping England to the title with a thrilling 22-20 victory over France in Paris.

However, it’s a bit of a shame that the tournament was eventually decided by points difference – and I’m not just saying that because England missed out. I wouldn’t have felt particularly pleased with the result if Stuart Lancaster’s men had beaten Italy by the required points to claim the title.

Had they won by another 11 points England would have won, basically because they trounced the weakest side by more points than Ireland. That doesn’t sit right with me.

I decided to work out what would have happened if the championship operated the same bonus points system as domestic rugby. Sadly that doesn’t help either. England and Ireland would still have tied on 18 points.

What I did notice was that there were not many tries scored over the course of the tournament, something that introducing four-try bonus points might change.

Whatever points system you use, in any sport, I am far more comfortable with head-to-head record being used as the first deciding factor when teams are level.

It’s not perfect, especially when more than two teams are on the same points, but when that is the case, you should revert to points or goal difference.

Of course, England beat Ireland in the Six Nations, but they did have the advantage of playing that game at home, which complicates things further. As usual, there are no easy answers.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Premier League title race goes down to the wire

IT HAS been a very long time since there were last four teams involved in the title race coming towards the end of March, and it’s a great thing for English football.

But who will win?

I’ve sat down and crudely worked out who I think it will be, based on predicting results between now and the end of the season. I have Chelsea winning with 88 points, one clear of Manchester City, with Liverpool in third on 85 and Arsenal fourth with 81.

Of course, when you do this sort of thing, you fail to predict unexpected results and I fully expect the title race to contain far more twists and turns than I have allowed for.

I also have to confess to being a Chelsea fan. In truth, I still make Manchester City favourites but the glimmer of hope that I have is that they still have four tricky away games, against Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton.

It’s these sort of games that will probably decide the title and for that reason I am also still a bit worried about Liverpool, who have home games against both Chelsea and Manchester City to come.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be exciting.

Incidentally, the draw for the last eight of the Champions League takes place later this morning.

Who would I like to see Chelsea drawn against? Manchester United. I never thought I would say that.

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