Liam Smith of Liverpool (33-3-1, 20 KOs) fought with a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove Saturday against Chris Eubank Jr. of Sussex (32-3, 23 KOs). In front of a sold-out house of his fans in Manchester, Smith delivered a sensational victory with a fourth-round blowout TKO stoppage of Eubank Jr.
In only his second bout at middleweight, Smith laid in wait for Eubank Jr. as the bigger man worked behind his snapping jab as his primary weapon in the early rounds. Working with trainer and former champion Roy Jones Jr., Eubank Jr. looked slightly like Jones, but not enough. Smith was tagged but not hurt, patiently looking for openings.
He got that opening early in the fourth round, catching Eubank Jr. with a cracking 45-degree left hook to the right temple of Eubank Jr. Smith unloaded as Eubank Jr. fell to the canvas, his legs collapsing under him. Eubank Jr. rose and beat the count on unsteady legs. Referee Victor Lachlan could have stopped it right there. He allowed Eubank Jr. to recover, but Smith swarmed again as Eubank Jr. fell forward. The fight ended at 1:09 of round four. It was the first stoppage of Eubank Jr.'s career and the biggest win of Smith's career. Smith's boxing family, including brothers Callum, Stephen, and Paul, erupted in celebration with the victory.
DOWN goes Eubank Jr.
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) January 21, 2023
Smith and Eubank Jr. Kiss and Make Up. Rematch?
After all the trash talk and personal insults leading up to the bout, the pair embraced with a display of sportsmanship as the result was read to the roaring crowd.
“I told you all week, don't be surprised,” smiled Smith, who admitted he couldn't really remember the exact punches he landed for the victory. “He's got very long arms. He's very good at jabbing and pulling away. I judged the distance better as the fight went on.”
Smith admitted he couldn't remember the exact punches he threw. “I knew I wobbled him, so I let them go. If I drop someone, they're not seeing the final bell. I knew Chris was there, I cannot let him off the hook. His fitness and condition would probably let him recover quick. I think the next bundle of punches landed.”
Smith complimented the fans for fueling his effort. “This atmosphere, this ranks at the very top. These people are here for me. Everything about tonight puts this right at the top, to do something no one's done.”
Eubank Jr. joined Smith in the ring to congratulate him. “I thought I could have gone on, but he caught me with a great shot. The buildup is the buildup, we're friends at the end.”
Eubank Jr. floated the offer of a rematch. Smith said he agreed to a rematch clause “as a courtesy” and hinted any rematch would be on his terms. “I'll see, depends on what the man is going to pay me. I'm in a very good position now at 160 and 154.”
Eubank Jr. left the ring with a vicious knot swelling the side of his face, so depending on the extent of the injury, he won't return anytime soon. One can only wonder what Conor Benn watching at home is thinking.
Riakporhe vs. Glowacki: Riakporhe Roars Past Pole for TKO
Richard Riakporhe of London (16-0, 12 KOs) made a statement in the cruiserweight division, taking out veteran and former champion Krzysztof Glowacki of Poland (32-4, 20 KOs). Riakporhe rocked Glowacki with a hard right hand in the second round, but the veteran composed himself. When Riakporhe rocked Glowacki again with a left hook in the fourth round, he didn't give him another chance to recover. He pinned the Pole into the corner and unloaded. Veteran British referee Howard Foster jumped in to stop it at 2:44 of round four.
“We got the job done, and that's what we wanted,” said Riakporhe. British cruiserweight Chris Billam-Smith joined Riakporhe in the ring and said he's “bang up” for a rematch contest with Riakporhe to avenge his only loss by TKO in 2019. The cards were close and split at the time of the stoppage. It's an attractive matchup for British fans. Props to Riakporhe for walking out to the Dave Clark Five (you're welcome).
Essuma Gets Majority Decision over Kongo In British Welterweight Fight
Ekow Essuma of Nottingham (19-0, 7 KOs) eked out a narrow majority decision win over Chris Kongo of London (14-2, 7 KOs) to retain his British welterweight title and a handful of minor straps. Botswana and Kongo were active throughout the 12-round bout, but neither possessed much power and were working behind volume. In the latter rounds, both corners told their fighters they needed to step on the gas. It wasn't a matter of stamina, it was more about punch selection lacking strategy.
Essuma credited the win to his stamina and previous experience in the ring. “Boxing's about what you can do when you're tired, not when you're fit,” said Essuma. “The proof's in the pudding. You just have to keep beating who's in front of you.” For now at least, Essuma won't threaten any elite welterweights anytime soon.
Joseph Parker Wins Lackluster Decision Over Jack Massey
Give Joseph Parker of New Zealand (31-3, 21 KOs) credit for getting back in the ring four months after his 11th-round knockout loss to Joe Joyce. That's about as far as we can go after an uninspiring decision victory over former sparring partner Jack Massey of England (20-2, 11 KOs). Massey is rated outside the top 50 heavyweights and seemed to pose little threat, but Parker boxed while Massey held. Massey lost one point for holding in the eighth round, but it did not affect the ultimate scores of 97-93, 97-92, and 96-93.
“He was going to come prepared,” said Parker of Massey. “I think if he came forward a little bit, it would have been a different fight.” Trainer Andy Lee said Parker needs to work on “More of everything. Feet, head, I think he's just beginning again.”
Parker can collect paychecks all day playing gatekeeper for rising stars, but we'd rather see him show off his acting and musical chops in a Broadway musical. Seriously.
Frazer Clark's Campaign Carries On
Tokyo 2020 Olympic heavyweight bronze medalist Frazer Clark of England (5-0, 4 KOs) continued his steady rise as a pro with a solid victory driven by good bodywork, stopping Kevin Nicholas Espindola of Argentina (7-7, 2 KOs) for the first time with a fourth-round TKO. Clark sensed Espindola feeling the effects of the body pounding and strafed his midsection to shut him down. Espindola indicated he was injured after the round, and the referee waved off the bout. Clark says he'd like to fight Joe Parker next. Bring it.
TAYLOR VS. CATTERALL 2 POSTPONED
The March 4 rematch between Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall has been postponed again due to an injury to Taylor. Heavy sigh.