Liam Smith put all the talking behind him as he battered Chris Eubank to defeat in the fourth round of their grudge match in Manchester.
Eubank had looked to be getting on top in the third round, but Smith then cleaned him out with one prolonged and incredibly accurate attack.
It culminated in two huge left hooks that left Eubank flat on his back in a corner and, while he was allowed to box on, there was no way he could recover and it was stopped after he was knocked down a second time moments later.
It was comfortably the highest-profile win of Smith’s career. Despite being a former WBO super-welterweight champion, Smith had never really captured the imagination of the wider public before. Now he is set for a glorious autumn of his career.
The build-up had becoming increasingly tetchy, culminating in a press conference on Thursday where Smith’s remarks drew accusations of homophobia.
But the two embraced afterwards after Eubank congratulated the winner.
“I don’t know if it was one shot or an accumulation, but as I have said all week, a lot was made of that he has a great chin, I’ve got a great chin, but there are many fighters with better chins who have been knocked out in the past,” Smith said.
“He has got very long arms and he is very good at jabbing and pulling away. I thought going in that I would have judge the distance better as the fight went on, but I am known as a slow starter. But slow starter or not.
“I can’t remember (the finishing shots). I knew I wobbled him so I let them go. I knew Chris was hurt so I thought ‘I cannot let him off the hook’. His fitness and condition would probably make him recover quick. But the next bundle of punches landed. I’ve got good accuracy, my timing’s very good.”
Eubank looked to establish his jab early on, but Smith stayed close and countered with a good, stiff right. Eubank tried to open up and landed a clubbing right, although Smith again came back with a good right.
Early in the second, the pair exchanged punches but Smith got through with a good right. But while Eubank re-established the jab, as Smith was content to stalk, Smith finished the round with a good flurry.
The third saw Eubank establish some control as he stood off with his jab and then landed an uppercut as Smith tried to come forward into range. Four more uppercuts and a right hook followed as Eubank opened up as Smith held his feet behind a high guard. Two more uppercuts then landed before the round ended as Smith was forced to take them.
But the confidence that gave Eubank would only get him so far. As Eubank prodded away with the jab at the start of the fourth, he backed himself into a corner. Smith then came forward and unloaded with both hands, finishing with two big lefts that dumped Eubank on his back.
He hauled himself up to his feet with the ropes, but looked in desperately unsteady legs.
With Smith already celebrating, Victor Loughlin, the referee, looked to get Eubank to walk towards him, something he seemed barely able to do. But he allowed it to continue and Smith launched himself at Eubank. A right landed and, as Eubank tried to grab hold, he fell to the floor again.
He was up again quickly but straight into the arms of Loughlin, who waved it off.
In the melee that followed, Eubank tried to push Loughlin off him and continue the fight, but Joe McNally, Smith’s trainer, was quick to get between the boxers and calm Eubank down. The end came at 1:09 of the round.
Eubank has a rematch clause and he suggested he will enforce it.
“If Chris wants the rematch he can have one, but it is going to be on my terms,” Smith said.
“Big congratulations to him,” Eubank said. “I felt like I had him going but he caught me with a great shot. If the fans want to see a rematch, we can get it on at Anfield.”
Smith described the pre-fight controversy as “just tongue-in-cheek between me and Chris”. “I’ve been slaughtered for it, but there was nothing homophobic on my behalf,” said Smith, who could face action from the British Boxing Board of Control.
“I agreed to a rematch clause, so that is down to Chris and Chris’s team, but if not, we move on. I’m in a very good position now at 160 and 154, so I think over the next month or two we have got big decisions to make.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.