By Alexey Sukachev
In front of a roaring Liverpool crowd, local featherweight Stephen Smith (12-0, 6 KOs) transformed himself into arguably the best active British 126lber after a heated and a bit questionable victory over reigning national champion John Simpson (22-8, 9 KOs). Not only he defeated the IBF #4 ranked pugilist but he also acquired the BBBofC British featherweight belt, notched himself into a worldwide contention and prevented the Scottish fighter from a sweet revenge.
It was the second time both boxers shared the same ring. In September 2010, former amateur star Smith, who had previously won only against non-descript opposition, stepped up hugely in class and soundly upset Simpson to get a split nod and the Commonwealth title with it. That fight was also a BBBofC British 126lb eliminator. Interestingly, it was Simpson who eventually got his chance at the defending champion and realized it, masterfully getting a road win over previously undefeated Martin Lindsey in December.
In what turned out to be a war of attrition, Smith started in frenetic space continuously rocking slower Simpson while fighting at the middle range. The first stanza was all in challenger's favour. Things started to break up slowly in the second when Simpson caught his breath and started to retaliate under heavy fire. Rounds two and three were for John Simpson, but in the fourth Smith scored several hard blows to make another turnaround. Rounds five to nine thrilled the audience with a see-saw action, with both of the fighters scoring repeatedly. An entire contest was thought to be going in Simpson's favour as he forced Smith to work inside where the style prevented the challenger from inflicting any serious damage to the champion.
It was a perception (to a degree) that the bout was slowly and slightly heading to Simpson, but in the tenth Smith mounted yet another comeback. Rounds eleven and twelve were even with neither fighter getting an edge. After twelve rounds of battling, judge Dave Parris scored this fight a draw but he was overrun by the third judge (115-114) and by Terry O'Connor, who had astonishing 118-112 in Smith's favour. Unlike the officials, BoxingScene saw this contest 113-116 - for the defending (and now former) British champion.
Towering (6'8'') British heavyweight hope David Price (10-0, 8 KOs) has never looked that sensational as he did at Olympia Hall in Liverpool, England. Price, 27, a three-time ABA super heavyweight champion as an amateur, started his quickie against American journeyman Rafael Butler (35-10, 28 KOs) at a measured pace. It all ended seconds after the end of the first minute of the very first round.
The British giant landed a single straight right hand flush on Butler's chin, which put him down heavily. The American fighter managed to get himself up at the count of nine but Price soon put an end to the fight with a short left hook, which sent Butler down for the second time. Rafael beat the count but referee Steve Gray saw enough and halted the action at 1:48 of the opening stanza. Next for Price is a fight against "Big" John McDermott on June 11 in the BBBofC British heavyweight title eliminator.