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After all the nasty words and very personal attacks exchanged throughout the buildup, Liam Smith said that while winning was paramount, he also would “love to make a statement and stop him.”
Smith made the statement he was looking for, stunningly knocking out Chris Eubank Jr. in the fourth round of their high-profile all-British middleweight fight on Saturday at the sold-out AO Arena in Manchester, England.
“There are many fighters with better chins who have been knocked out in the past. I said all week don’t be surprised,” Smith said of his chances for a knockout after notching one of the biggest wins of his 15-year pro career.
Many who thought Smith would emerge victorious figured a decision would likely be in the cards. He was the smaller man fighting at middleweight for only the second time and has never been known as a devastating puncher. The taller, longer Eubank, who has campaigned at super middleweight, is known for having a durable chin and had gone the distance in two previous defeats.
But Smith flipped conventional wisdom upside down with the shock knockout. The victory was as a big of a win the former junior middleweight world titleholder could achieve other than winning a world title in a second division. He may get his chance down the road off the victory but first he savored the moment.
“I can’t even remember (the shot). I knew I wobbled him and I let (punches) go,” Smith said. “I knew Chris was hurt and I knew I can’t let him off the hook because his fitness and conditioning would probably let him recover quick.”
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The fight was competitive until the sudden ending. Eubank landed several hard jabs and in the third round a series of right uppercuts that seemed to give him momentum.
“He’s got very long arms and he’s very good at jabbing and pulling away,” Smith said. “I figured I would be better at judging that distance as the fight went on. Chris is fast and I am a slow starter.”
By the fourth round, however, he got in a groove. He cornered Eubank and landed a right hand on the chin that hurt him followed by two lefts, a brutal left uppercut that snapped his head back and another left that put him on his rear end in a corner and grabbing the ropes.
Eubank popped up quickly on extremely unsteady legs. Referee Victor Loughlin issued the mandatory eight-count and allowed the fight to continue even though Eubank looked in terrible shape.
Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs), 34, went right to him and dropped him again under heavy pressure. Eubank again popped right up before Loughlin could even begin his count. But when Eubank nearly fell over the referee waved it off at 1 minute, 9 seconds.
Eubank, who had terrible swelling under his right eye from the onslaught, was so out of it he did not seem to realize the fight had been stopped and seemingly on instinct tried to charge back at Smith before the corners and referee pulled him away as Smith celebrated his fourth knockout win in a row.
“The man has a very good chin but if somebody hits you on the right spot, you’re going. That’s a fact,” Smith said. “(Former super middleweight titlist) George Groves, a massive puncher at 168, couldn’t do that (to Eubank).”
Eubank (32-4, 23 KOs), 33, whose six-fight winning streak since a decision loss to Groves for the WBA super middleweight title in 2018 ended, joined Smith during his post-fight interview in the ring and all of the bad blood seemed to melt away.
“Big congratulations to him,” Eubank said. “I felt like I could have gone on but he caught me with a great shot. Listen, the build-up was the build-up. I respect you, I respect your family, always have. If the fans want to see a rematch we can do it. Big respect. I appreciate it.”
Eubank has the right to an immediate rematch.
“It will be up to Chris whether he wants that again,” Boxxer promoter Ben Shalom said.
The match came out of nowhere but blossomed into a fight that caught the fancy of the British public.
Eubank was scheduled to fight Conor Benn in a massively hyped fight on Oct. 8. However, after a Benn failed drug test for a banned substance and the results were made public days before the bout it was canceled. That left Eubank and his promoter, Kalle Sauerland of Wasserman Boxing, looking for a name opponent and found one in Smith, who also is a big name in British boxing, for a fight that headlined a pay-per-view in the United Kingdom.
It was the kind of victory that will make Smith’s next fight a big deal whether he rematches with Eubank or faces somebody else.
“We’ll see what’s next. If Chris wants the rematch, I agreed to a rematch clause,” Smith said. “If not, then we move on. I’m in a very good position now at 160 and 154.”
Photos: Lawrence Lustig/Boxxer
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Terrible refereeing from Victor Laughlin. Eubank Jr shouldn't have been allowed to continue after he got up on drunken legs after the first knock down.
Letting Eubank continue was dangerous and could have ended very badly. Luckily, after hitting the canvas again, Eubank finished with only a swollen cheek rather than a swollen brain.
Well done to both Liam Smith, for getting the win, and to Chris Eubank Jr for being gracious in defeat.
It sure looked easy to knock U down for some reason maybe me eyes were prejudiced bc of the way Smith has looked in the past and not a fan of either guy. That said - they brought some action and attention to themselves Saturday Night, It just seemed that U went down harder then the shots landed at first watch. I will check it during the week and be for sure in that count.