Matt Skelton retained his British heavyweight title in unconvincing fashion over late substitute Mark Krence at the Bolton Arena on Saturday night.
Unbeaten Skelton laboured through the early rounds before Krence's corner retired their man at the end of the seventh round.
It was brave Krence who deserved all the credit for stepping in to take the fight at less than 24 hours' notice following Danny Williams' withdrawal.
The Chesterfield man was outweighed by nearly three stones but managed to hold his own against the champion with cleaner work before his challenge understandably began to fade.
|Krence and Skelton in action|
Williams, last year's conqueror of Mike Tyson, had controversially pulled out of the fight claiming to still be suffering from a bout of flu. But on this evidence the much more talented Williams could still could have overcome the raw and untutored Skelton after clambering off his sick bed.
Skelton, who nevertheless racked up his 17th consecutive win in a professional career lasting less than three years, struggled to find a way through the determined Krence.
And if the challenger possessed any power rather than a record of just six early wins in his 24 fights, it might even have been a different story.
Krence is a good domestic fighter who gave Audley Harrison one of his sternest tests over six rounds at London's ExCel Centre in 2002. And the way he caught Skelton with both hands in round five briefly suggested a miracle victory just could be on the cards.
But instead Krence's more accurate work was marred by increasing fatigue and Skelton's heavy-handed responses had more effect. Skelton's best punch of the night was the left to the body he landed towards the end of the sixth round which made Krence visibly wince.
And as Krence returned to his stool his trainer Dennis Hobson made the wise decision to call his game challenge off.
Skelton must now go away to reconsider his plans to gatecrash the world title scene on the back of this largely unconvincing display.
The 37-year-old has little time left to reach the top but will now need to go back to basics if he is to have any real chance of fulfilling his dreams.
Afterwards Skelton heaped praise on Krence, saying: "Mark did brilliantly.
|Skelton retained his title|
"I didn't really fight well. That is not to discredit Mark, but if you watch footage of your opponent you can get your mind set on how to fight him.
"That's why it was a bit of an untidy fight but I got the job done and am still British champion.
"I'm glad I won as I was disappointed when Danny pulled out.
"I've never ducked a fight and don't know why Danny didn't take the fight but I think it discredits boxing."
Krence was delighted with his performance and said: "That wasn't bad. If I'd had eight weeks notice it would have been different and the best is yet to come.
"I've been talking about dropping down to cruiserweight but now I know I can still handle the best heavyweights."