Liam Smith’s experience at top level shone through as he got the better of Anthony Fowler, stopping his fellow Scouser in the eighth round at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool on Saturday night. It was a dominant display from Smith in the end, as he gradually broke Fowler down and forced the stoppage.
It was billed as the ‘Battle of Liverpool’. It started well for Fowler, but Smith stepped through the gears, walked through Fowler’s best and convincingly despatched him. Smith picks up the WBA’s International super-welterweight title with the win and moves to 30-3-1, 17 KOs whilst Fowler slips to 15-2, 12 KOs and once again has to go back to the drawing board.
Fowler got behind the jab early on, as the pair tried to rough each other up in the clinch. Smith suffered a cut near his left eye in the first round, likely from a punch and Fowler managed to catch him with a couple of solid right hands. It was an encouraging start from Fowler and a wake-up call for Smith, who was far too casual.
He had paid attention and Smith pressed on, closing the distance in the second, although Fowler was still connecting. Fowler enjoyed a strong third and snapped Smith’s head back after unloading a barrage that had Smith looking ragged. The weight of the shots did seem to be affecting the former WBO world champion, but not enough to force him back onto his heels.
Fowler was warned by Shane McGuigan in his corner about getting involved in the exchanges and the Rio 2016 Olympian was more disciplined in the opening stages of the fourth. However, he suffered a cut by the left eye and Smith was ramping up the pressure again. Smith stayed true to his task and continued to try and grind him down.
A big right hand had Fowler down in the fifth and Smith began to measure Fowler up for an early evening. Fowler gamely swung back, as Smith became overeager for the stoppage but the tide had well and truly turned. Fowler needed to recover and do it quickly. Smith held back, poised, waiting for his moment and Fowler fended him off through the sixth.
Fowler had recovered in the seventh, but his night had become a matter of trying to keep Smith off him. Smith was stalking him and Fowler looked to be there for the taking. A left hand had Fowler on his back in the eighth and, although he beat the count, referee Howard Foster rightly waved it off.
Troy Williamson is the new British super-welterweight champion, as he stopped Ted Cheeseman in the 10th round of an absolute war. It was a nasty stoppage to end a fight you couldn’t take your eyes off with momentum swings a plenty. Williamson, who lived up to his ‘Trojan’ nickname, is still unbeaten at 17-0-1, 13 KOs whilst the now former champion Cheeseman falls to 17-3-1, 10 KOs.
Cheeseman fights have become must-watch affairs for British fight fans and this one got going from the opening bell. It was a gruelling encounter with both men landing heavy shots, with neither taking a backwards step. But Williamson’s power was starting to tell. Cheeseman was true to previous form and kept coming, but he was getting tagged with some big blows.
Just when you thought Williamson would get on top, Cheeseman came straight back and some of the exchanges were fantastic. Cheeseman was badly staggered by a left hand in the seventh, but that failed to stop him pressing forward and the momentum swung again in the champion’s favour.
Wiliamson was beginning to look exhausted and Cheeseman put his foot on the gas. Then, just as it appeared to all be going Cheeseman’s way, Williamson found his second wind and went after the champion. Williamson sensed his chance was there for the taking and he ended matters with a huge left hand that flattened Cheeseman in the 10th. It was a memorable end to a memorable fight.
Peter McGrail kicked off life in the pro ranks with a straight forward 60-54 points win over Ed Harrison, now 2-9, 0 KOs. For McGrail, it was a welcome return to winning ways between the ropes, after he succumbed to an early exit in Tokyo during the Olympics and the highly-decorated amateur gave us a glimpse of what may be coming our way. It was a confident performance from super-bantamweight McGrail, who will surely be moved quickly in the paid code.
Shannon Courtenay had already lost her WBA bantamweight title on the scales due to an issue with making weight on Friday. To top off a dismal trip to Liverpool, she was soundly beaten by American Jamie Mitchell, who claimed the belt Courtenay vacated. Courtenay was also sporting a heavy duty knee brace and she was up against it early on as Mitchell took the fight to her from the outset.
Mitchell grew with confidence with every round, however she began to tire in the final stages and Courtenay finally let her hands go. However, it was too little, too late and Mitchell took it via majority decision, 97-93, 96-94 and 95-95 on the cards, improving her unbeaten record to 7-0-2, 4 KOs. As for Courtenay, who struggled to contain her shock when the result was announced, she slips to 7-2, 3 KOs and will almost certainly be after a rematch with Mitchell and the scales.
Kieron Conway consigned former Commonwealth 154lbs champion James Metcalf to a second successive defeat at the hands of a domestic rival, as he edged past him by unanimous decision. The fight never really caught fire and Conway probably did just about enough. The judges agreed and gave it 96-95 (twice) and 96-94 to the Northampton man. Conway’s record improves to 17-2-1 with 3 KOs, whilst Metcalf dips to 21-2, 13 KOs.
Liverpool 135-pounder Luke Willis remained unbeaten, earning a majority decision win over Rylan Charlton. Willis was the deserved winner, although the scorecards of 95-94 (twice) and 95-95 probably gave Charlton more credit than he was due.
Meanwhile, former British, Commonwealth and European 140lbs champion Robbie Davies Jr put in a good performance to pick up a stoppage victory over Jonny Phillips. Referee Steve Gray stepped in during the fourth round to cap off a dominant performance from the Scouser.
Rounding off the evening, heavyweight hope Solomon Dacres picked up his third victory as a pro with an excellent win over Kamil Sokolowski, 78-74 on points, whilst local bantamweight Blane Hyland got the better of Santiago San Eusebio 39-37 also on points.
Main image: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.