By Jake Donovan
Liam Smith became the first among his fighting brothers to capture a major title in the pro ranks, rallying from behind to knock out John Thompson in seven rounds in their vacant super welterweight title fight Saturday evening in Manchester, England.
Things looked bleak early on for Smith, who was inactive early in the fight, allowing the visiting Thompson to pile up points on the scorecards. The unbeaten 27-year old drew concerns from fans and viewers, wondering at what point he'd fight as if a world title was at stake.
The answer to that question came in round five. Smith began to close the gap against Thompson - a contender from Newark, New Jersey who fell into the opportunity through the strangest of circumstances - and eventually took over the fight. Thompson won the boxing battle, but was unable to keep up with Smith's power shots.
A combination towards the end of round six had Thompson glassy-eyed and briefly separated from his senses. The American was saved by the bell, but never fully recovered. Smith left nothing to chance, taking the initiative with the title well within his sights.
Thompson was hurt again midway through round seven, eventually sent face-first to the canvas courtesy of a right hand to the temple. The shot left him down and out, with the referee halting the contest in crowning a new super welterweight titlist.
The official time was 1:44 of round seven.
Smith improves to 22-0-1 (12KOs) with the win. His modest knockout-to-win ratio - just six fights ago below .500 - perhaps lulled opponents into believing a boxing match was in store against him. The 27-year old Liverpudlian has stopped his last six opponents.
Thompson falls to 17-2 (6KOs) with the loss. A three-fight win streak came entirely in his run as a replacement fighter in the ESPN2 Boxcino 154 lb. tournament, filling in on 24 hours notice and going on to claim top honors in the eight-man bracket. His final win came in a 2nd round knockout of Brandon Adams in May.
The feat resulted in an unexpected title fight, though under dubious circumstances. The American boxer jumped in as an alternate when originally selected - and higher rated - Michel Soro bowed out due to an internal promotional rift.
Smith was always on board and now becomes the first of his four boxing brothers to win a title in the pro ranks. Paul Smith came up short in two shots at super middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham, while 30-year old Stephen Smith bides his time as the mandatory challenger to super featherweight champ Jose Pedraza. Younger brother Callum, 25, faces Rocky Fielding next month at home in Liverpool, in a fight that could lead to a title shot.
The bout aired live on BoxNation in the United Kingdom and beIN Sports in the United States.