Bookmakers’ favourite Callum Smith reached the last four of the World Boxing Super Series with a points win over Erik Skoglund at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
Smith won unanimously – the scorecards read 116-112, 117-110 and 117-111 – but in his pro career, nobody has pushed him harder than the Swede did in a good contest for the WBC Diamond belt that was fought at a good pace and good spirit throughout.
There were several shifts, with Smith starting better, then Skoglund coming back to narrow the gap.
After 10 rounds, Smith looked to be ahead – possibly by a couple of rounds – and put the fight beyond Skoglund on the cards with a knockdown in the 11.
He buckled Sloglund’s knees with a right-hand counter and followed up to force the Swede to take a knee.
Smith had two minutes to finish the fight, but couldn’t find the clean punches he was looking for and called off his attack.
Smith boxed to protect his lead in a quieter last when both acknowledged each other’s punches.
The fighters seemed to enjoy the fight as much as the crowd – and surely viewers tuning in to watch on ITV 4 – and embraced warmly at the final bell.
“Apart from one or two rounds, I felt comfortable,” said Smith. “I beat a very good fighter on the back foot and I showed I’ve got power in the later rounds.
“I was having to think to win the rounds. I didn’t do as I pleased.”
For Skoglund, it was his first defeat after 26 wins, at light-heavyweight and cruiserweight.
He had a fidgety style, jumping in and out of range, and once he had settled into the fight after appearing to concede the opening four rounds, he gave Smith problems.
He bloodied Smith’s nose in the fifth – possibly the first time that’s happened in the Liverpudlian’s career – with jabs and went on to narrow the lead he had built.
The eighth round was Smith’s best for a while as he got his left hand and combinations working again – and the ninth was another good round for him.
Too easy to hit in earlier rounds, Smith started to read Skoglund’s jab, make him miss and counter. Skoglund went for a lengthy walk after feeling a left hook to the body as well.
The 10 was closer and then Smith re established control in the 11.
For Smith, the fight was his first since beating Luke Blackledge in a British-title defence last December and victory sends him through to the last four, where he will face either Juergen Braehmer or Rob Brant, who clash in Germany on October 28.