By Elliot Foster
Callum Smith outclassed Luke Blackledge to move on to his world title challenge.
The Liverpool super-middleweight, 26, retained his British title in emphatic fashion, in what was something of a one-sided display, as part of the supporting cast to Anthony Joshua’s second defence of the IBF heavyweight title against Eric Molina at Manchester Arena, exclusively live on Sky Sports Box Office.
In the early stages, it looked for all the world like Smith would end proceedings, as and when he pleased, but to his credit Blackledge –– who was deducted a point by referee Steve Gray for holding –– bit down on his gumshield and battled through, despite being on the end of some heavy shots which resulted in a pair of knockdowns.
‘Mundo’, who will fight for the WBC and IBF world titles in 2017, against the winner of Badou Jack and James DeGale, in 2017, took some rounds to rest, allowing the gallant Accrington man to work a way back into the fight.
But a vicious left-hook in round 10, which was timed perfectly and landed bang on the base of the chin, left Blackledge senseless on the ring canvas for some considerable time.
Swift action by those in authority at ringside was taken to ensure that Blackledge rose to his feet –– and he did so to an ovation from those watching.
In defeat, he slips to 22-3-2 with seven early, while Smith remains undefeated as he closes in on that coveted shot at global glory.
He’ll enter the ring against either DeGale or Jack with an unblemished ledger of 22-0 with 17 quick.
Meanwhile, Frank Buglioni knocked out Hosea Burton in the final round to claim the British light-heavyweight title.
The pair, who met as amateurs, were embroiled in a war of words in the build-up and it was that word ‘war’ that was symptomatic of their fight in the pros.
It was a close one, backwards and forwards all the way through, and it was one that outgoing champ Burton edged as it was going into the dying embers.
But Buglioni, cut badly by the left eye early on and suffering throughout, dug deep, rocked his man a few times and eventually broke down his resistance to take the fight by stoppage with just over a minute left in the final round.
The referee, after one knockdown, allowed Burton to continue, but it was just seconds later when the end was called after ‘The Hammer’ visited the canvas a second time after the legs stiffened and eventually betrayed him.
One minute and 56 seconds was the time called in the final round and it’s a clash which Buglioni, the new champ, wouldn’t mind doing again, according to what he said in his Sky Sports interview after the fight.