Every week in boxing can’t have a big fight.
Any week can have a damn good one.
Boxing fans got more than that last weekend with two thrilling main events.
On Saturday, former Jr. middleweight titlist Liam Smith scored his fourth consecutive knockout, in the fourth round, for what may have been the biggest victory of his career. As someone who has won and lost a major belt, that may sound overstated but is it? A big domestic showdown with the son of one of the UK’s biggest stars in recent decades, Chris Eubank Jr., put butts in the seats and raised eyebrows around the world.
How many can name the person Smith beat for a WBO belt at 154 lbs?
Smith and Eubank spiced up the festivities with some trash talk in the lead but what happened in the ring was unexpected. Eubank’s punch resistance has been an asset during his career. Smith proved what all boxing fans know…anyone can go if the right shot lands at the right time.
The night before, boxing delivered another exciting knockout in a different kind of fight.
ShoBox is about prospects and that is what both David Stevens and Sean Hemphill remain for now. They remain so with more fans than they had last Thursday. For eight rounds, the undefeated youngsters gave as good as they got until Hemphill ran out of give in the closing seconds of the eighth and final round.
Futures: It took almost to the final second but Stevens, who was otherwise ahead on the cards, closed the show in dramatic fashion. They both made fans Friday, but Stevens made a critical step toward contention. Now 12-0 and only 22, Stevens might be competing at Jr. lightweight but what he likely represents is a piece of the lightweight division (or more) we’ll all be watching in a couple years. With his skill, tenacity, and fire, Stevens will be one to follow the whole way.
At the other end of the career spectrum, the 34-year old Smith is experiencing a career revival and now has two straight wins at middleweight. It’s a good time for that as middleweight is largely a wasteland. Jermall Charlo, injured last year, has been out for a year and half and going. Gennadiy Golovkin is old and still aging. Zhanibek Alimkhanuly is still developing, belt or not. Smith may not win another belt, but he’s now close to position to get another title shot before he’s done. After his loss to Magomed Kurbanov in 2021, that didn’t feel like the trajectory.
Liam Smith beat Apollo Thompson for a vacant WBO belt in 2015…There’s no reason to pretend to having seen last weekend’s Don King show on Fite…Atif Oberlton is an intriguing prospect at light heavyweight. His height, length, and punch selections are good for an eight-fight upstart and he’s likely to continue to refine…Julian Gonzalez is another young lightweight to watch…The announcement last week that we are all but an official date away from Stephen Fulton-Naoya Inoue is music to the ears. For boxing lovers, that is as good as the sport will get this year…Richard Riakporhe has the look of a future champion at cruiserweight..Joseph Parker has the look of a former titlist coming off a war whose desire may be waning fast.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org