Middleweight contender Hamzah Sheeraz marched on with a brilliant 10th-round stoppage victory over Austin “Ammo” Williams on Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. But it was far from a one-sided fight.

Sheeraz might have been Frank Warren’s riskiest inclusion in this "5 vs 5" bill, or at least he was the fighter with the most to lose. Already guaranteed a world title shot thanks to his mandatory position in the WBO middleweight rankings, a loss here – in a WBC eliminator – would not only have ruined those plans, but also "the next Tommy Hearns" tag placed upon his broad shoulders by Warren himself would have looked very silly indeed.

The realization of which seemed to dawn on the Hall of Fame promoter in the second round when Eddie Hearn, after the favorite wobbled from a right, got to his feet and screamed that the 6-foot-3 Sheeraz was “gone."

In the end, thanks to the Ilford, England, man’s exceptional showing, this victory only makes Warren’s praise – and the matchmaking – start to look very shrewd indeed.

Southpaw Williams, 16-0 (11), arguably entered this contest having met superior opposition to that of his opponent. Wins over the likes of Steve Rolls and Kieron Conway gave the Houston resident a taster of the fringes of world class even if he sometimes struggled to completely impress.

Sheeraz’s advantages in size and reach were clear within moments of the opening bell even though Williams chose to answer it with his arms raised in the air. That he oozed composure so early, zinging in his powerful left lead with authority, only added to the feeling that Queensberry – already up 2-0 following victories for Willy Hutchinson and Nick Ball – was about to increase its lead.

Then “Ammo” turned the tide in the second. A straight right hand, fired from a crouch into the target zone, landed with an audible thud. Another followed, and suddenly that long frame of Sheeraz, the pre-fight favorite, looked considerably less imposing.

The early pattern was set, and Sheeraz, after relinquishing control, regained it in the third. Williams was rocked heavily, the straight shots from the Englishman were on point, and the American’s legs again looked unsteady.

And so it continued. Williams’ looping left hand drew gasps from the crowd only for his desire to replicate the blast to invite Sheeraz to detonate his uppercut. Both men were having significant success while looking equally vulnerable in a bout that felt like it could end at any moment. Every time Sheeraz attacked, he would land and then get hit back. Whenever Williams had success, he too left himself wide open.

By the sixth, however, the taller man was enjoying sustained periods of dominance. That ramrod jab of Sheeraz – a natural lefty fighting out of an orthodox stance – was more controlled and no longer came with an invitation to counter. Worse for Williams, he was being forced to throw from too far out, the distance between them lengthening thanks to Sheeraz artfully sliding away.

If Hamzah’s meaty jab was proving something of a nuisance, then his uppercuts on the inside threatened to take over in Rounds 7 and 8. More than once, it looked like Williams was going to fall, his early success a distant memory.

But the shorter man exhibited incredible courage over the course of the next five minutes and 50 seconds. Williams dared to close that gap, somehow finding the energy to launch two-fisted barrages. Then, at the 2:50 mark of Round 10, a lead right hook dropped Williams heavily. Showing typical heart, he beat the count.

Somehow “Ammo” was still standing when he was stopped at 0:45 of the 11th. A long and powerful left sent him skedaddling across the ring, and a right threatened to take him off his feet before another blow to the body seemed to keep him upon them. The referee’s intervention was perfectly timed as Williams, bleeding but oh-so brave, careered towards the corner.

“At the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t going to be a wipeout victory,” Sheeraz said afterwards. “He’s a muscular lad, and we knew we had to break him down on the inside. I was throwing the uppercut. My corner was saying the right hook, Frank [Warren] was telling me the right hook and, boom, I slipped it over and he was gone.”