Chris Eubank Jr versus Liam Smith was a pick ’em fight – and those of you who picked Smith were right.
The Manchester crowd were right behind ‘Beefy’, his ringwalk continuing through chants as Eubank shadow boxed through the guts of the building.
Rounds 1-3 were close and tentative. Eubank focused on his jab, and it did start to work in the third. Smith, after all the talk of being the smaller man and so on and so forth, didn’t want to take a backwards step. He was happy to be fed the jab to try and land his own.
The fourth round was quite unbelievable. A flurry of shots – the standout being an absolutely pitch perfect uppercut – dropped Eubank Jr for the first time in his professional career. Not only was he dropped, but he was splayed in the corner. When he stood, he danced from one side of the ring to the other, but not like we’re used to. The legs weren’t there, and Smith knocked him down quickly again.
Referee Victor Loughlin waved it off, completely correctly. So stunned was Eubank that he thought the fight was still on. The pair shared a handshake as Junior regained his composure and the defeat settled in. To massive credit, he congratulated Smith in front of the crowd, and the pair put the build-up behind them. As of writing, it’s unclear if he’ll call for the rematch that’s his right.
The chin – and confidence – of Eubank Jr has officially been cracked, and the man to do it told us he could all along.
RESPECT! Liam Smith 🤝 Chris Eubank Jr pic.twitter.com/xcUjixk4Qy
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) January 21, 2023
Elsewhere on the card, Ekow Essuman (18-0, 7 KOs) put his British and Commonwealth welterweight titles on the line against Chris Kongo (14-1, 7 KOs). The champion spent the first four rounds trying and failing to disrupt the rhythm the challenger set with his stiff jab, but at the halfway stage he started to work his way inside with more success.
It looked like the tide was changing towards the end of the seventh when the pair stood to trade before sharing a few words after the bell. Essuman landed a big right hand in the ninth – a clear round for him when he needed it most. The finish was worthy of a British title scrap, with Kongo wobbled. Both men felt they had done enough as they waited for the cards. Essuman retained his belts, his strong finish clearly impressing the judges.
Despite his loss to Joe Joyce, Joseph Parker is still a former world champion and was always going to be an extremely tough first heavyweight test for local lad, Jack Massey. It was pretty much a clean sweep on the cards for the New Zealander, but that’s not to say it wasn’t close at times.
Massey – a cruiserweight until this bout – certainly didn’t shy away from the action and showed a good chin and the ability to fire back into the later rounds. Parker’s training partner and current champion of the world, Tyson Fury, cheered him on from ringside. Fight of the night it wasn’t.
Frazer Clarke moved to 5-0 as a professional with a stoppage victory over Kevin Espindola. Clarke presented a newly trim figure and pummelled Espindola into submission – the away fighter refusing to return from his stool after round four following an injury to his and or forearm in the first, likely paired with a general lack of desire. It wasn’t always pretty, and Clarke is yet to have a statement performance to really kickstart his campaign.
Heavyweight prospect, Matty Harris, moved to 4-0 with a first round knockout over Jiri Surmaj – a relatively early stoppage but the fight was only going one way.