It was substance over style at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night, as Liam Smith scored an eye-opening fourth round stoppage over Chris Eubank Jr. What had been a highly contentious pre-fight build-up, was turned into a loud statement from this blue-collar practitioner.
And that statement was this: that he is a hardened veteran, and a boxer that should be more appreciated by the masses.
At the end, he got the final, definitive word in.
Coming from a fighting family in Liverpool, Smith has only lost to an elite 'Canelo' Alvarez, gave Jaime Munguia one of his toughest tests, and dropped a controversial decision in Russia to Magomed Kubranov. Since that loss in 2021, he has notched four knockout wins.
Smith was actually a sizable underdog coming into this contest, which was somewhat understandable given that Eubank was the naturally larger man (who had more than a few fights at super middleweight), and was thought to be the fresher athlete of the two. He was rated fifth in the middleweight division by Ring Magazine, and was on a six fight winning streak since his loss to rival George Groves in 2018.
But it was Smith, who was making his first full-fledged foray as a middleweight, who was the one coming forward, putting on steady pressure, and moving Eubank back. He wasn't necessarily dominating the action, in fact, you could argue that Eubank won at least two of the first three frames of this contest. But it was clear that Smith was not intimidated in the least.
Then in the fourth round, the bout swung suddenly as a pair of lashing left uppercuts, and a well-placed right hand had Eubank sprawled out in the corner, dazed and disorientated, as he was on his backside. Eubank rose unsteadily on his feet as referee Victor Loughlin administered the mandatory eight-count. For all intents and purposes this fight was over.
It was made final as Eubank once again hit the deck after taking another left uppercut that had him lunging forward and desperately trying to hold onto Smith, as he crashed to the ropes. The fight was waved off. A stunning and dramatic finish to what just might be the most satisfying moment of Smith's productive career.
Others had defeated Eubank, but nobody had ever demolished him quite like this.
There is a rematch clause, but truth to be told, you wonder given the eroded punch resistance of Eubank, if he should now take the advice from a few years back of Naseem Hamed. While blessed with some athleticism, he lacked true fundamentals, and you always got the sense he was a poor mans Roy Jones (who ironically was his trainer for this fight, and didn't do much to help him out technically).
As for Smith, he certainly entered his name in the middleweight division as a bona-fide contender. Perhaps he can entice a Gennadiy Golovkin into a fight in the UK, or maybe Top Rank decides to roll the dice and give WBO belt-holder, Janibek Alimkhanuly, a chance to put a notable name on his ledger. There is also talk of Kell Brook coming out of retirement, that might be an option for him. All of these match-ups would be sizable events in England.
Smith showed once again that he is an authentic fighter, one that just goes about his business, and consistently gets the job done. There isn't a ton of sizzle, but with 'Beefy' there is a good amount of steak.
It was reported by Mike Coppinger of ESPN that the March 4th rematch between junior welterweight champion, Josh Taylor, and Jack Catterall, will be postponed as Taylor has a case of plantar fascia.
Since 2020, Taylor has fought just once a year. And last years contest with Catterall -- which many consider a very dubious decision in his favor -- took place on February 26.
I'll say this again, many modern day fighters are over-trained and under-fought. Right now, Taylor is like that appliance whose warranty has expired.
Keith Idec of Boxingscene.com was the first to report that a heavyweight tussle between Joe Joyce and Zhang Zhilei will take place on April 15 for the WBO interim title in London.
This figures to be a fun fight, bottom line, when 'Juggernaut' Joyce steps inside the ring, stuff happens -- and I'll be watching intently.
These are two big men who will hurl leather at each other for as long as it lasts.
David Stevens scored a dramatic last second KO of Sean Hemphill in what was an entertaining battle on the latest edition of ShoBox...Being told that a really good bantamweight bout between Luis Nery and 'Crazy A' Azat Hovinnisyan will take place on Feb. 18 in Pomona...The anticipated super middleweight clash between Caleb Plant and David Benavidez will take place on March 25 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas....May 20 will be the date for the lightweight championship bout between Devin Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko....'the Challenger: the Last Flight' on Netflix was something I really enjoyed... I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org...