Alen Babic overcame the toughest night of his professional career as he looked badly hurt in the second round before fighting back to knock out David Spilmont in the sixth of a scheduled heavyweight eight-rounder on the Joseph Parker-Derek Chisora bill in Manchester.
Spilmont, a late replacement after two withdrawals, had a 36-pound weight advantage but walked to the ring with the look of someone who hadn’t realised what he had volunteered for.
But after taking three big left hooks, one of which made his legs buckle, Spilmont seemed to rise to the challenge, as he not only fought back but caught Babic on the way in.
The second continued along the same lines, but Babic was looking wide open as he wound up for punches and, with a few seconds left in the round, Spilmont landed a big left that almost sent Babic face first out of the ring. Spilmont followed up, landing two or three clean shots before the ball rang.
But it was Babic who came out swinging again at the start of the third and, after taking a few more big shots, it was Babic who looked close to victory in the final seconds of the round, as he landed some clumping hooks that rocked the Frenchman.
Babic continued to walk through punches to land in the fourth and finally dropped Spilmont with a big left hook, although the Croatian could not force the stoppage and in the fifth, it was Spilmont coming on strong again as Babic looked to have punched himself to a standstill.
But Babic had enough in the tank to force the finish early in the sixth round, as Spilmont went back to the ropes and was caught by two left hooks that saw the Frenchman sink to the floor, where he was counted out by referee John Latham. The time was 0:53 of the sixth round.
“I wasn’t hurt at all, I spar like that every day,” Babic, who moved to 10-0, said. “But he threw a lot of punches, it was my hardest fight.”
Cruiserweight David Nyika boxed for the first time since winning an Olympic bronze medal as he moved to 2-0 as a pro as Anthony Carpin, of France, retired after the first round.
The 6ft 6in New Zealander – a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist – pinged Carpin with several right hands during the first round and soon after he made his way back to his stool, referee Steve Gray was called over, Carpin pointing at his left arm as a reason for his surrender.
Sandy Ryan, the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, had a massive size advantaged over 40-year-old Argentine Maria Soledad Capriolo, who last won a fight in 2017 and was never in danger of doing so here.
Ryan loaded up on her punches from the start, landing particularly well with the left hook from the first round onwards.
Early in the third round a left hook made Capriolo touch down briefly and while she tried to punch back, Ryan kept banging away until referee John Latham stopped the first at 1:11 of the third.
Welterweight Ryan is now 3-0 with her second stoppage.
Tall cruiserweight prospect Jordan Thompson had a farcically easy win as he needed less than a minute to see off Piotr Budziszewski.
The 35-year-old Pole came with a 4-0 record, although he had yet to beat an opponent who had won a fight, and he was way out of his depth against Thompson.
Indeed, it took just a series of left jabs to put Budziszewski on the floor in the first 30 seconds.
Budziszewski bulled forward as Thompson opened up and after a Thompson uppercut spun him around and dropped him on his face, referee Steve Gray waved it off. The time was 53 seconds of the first round.
Thompson, 28, is now 12-0 and in need of a serious step up in class.
Rhianan Dixon moved to 4-0 with a six-round points decision over perennial opponent Vaida Masiokaite at lightweight.
Masiokaite, a Lithuanian who was boxing for the 19th successive time in the UK, was busy without ever really threatening to win any rounds as Dixon landed well throughout with her southpaw left.
Referee John Latham scored it 60-54.