Liam Smith overwhelmed Sam Eggington in the fifth round to keep in contention for bigger fights later this year.
Former WBO super-welterweight titleholder Smith could not afford another setback, after losing an attempt to win back his belt against Jaime Munguia in July, and delivered a polished performance at the M&S Bank Arena Liverpool (formerly the Echo Arena).
Silver-haired Smith (27-2-1, 15 KOs), 30, picked up the fringe WBC Silver title after leaving English rival Eggington's face badly swollen with his pinpoint accurate punches.
Smith, who is one of four boxing brothers including reigning WBA world super-middleweight champion Callum, looked refreshed throughout this comfortable win, but revealed he went into the fight injured.
"It was the worst camp I've ever had with niggles and injuries. I couldn't throw a right hook, so I'm just relieved to get the win," Smith said. "I've had too long out of the ring. Hopefully I can be back out in quick succession."
Smith's fellow Englishman and former IBF world welterweight champion Kell Brook; American Jesse Vargas, the former WBO world welterweight champion; and Spain's Sergio Garcia are all possible opponents for Smith this summer.
"I love the Sergio Garcia fight, Jesse Vargas is now at this weight division and is a big fight for the summer and Kell Brook is a big domestic fight for Liam," Smith's promoter, Eddie Hearn, said.
Defeat for Eggington (24-6, 15 KOs), 25, from Birmingham, leaves his career in the balance after surprise defeats to Tanzania's Hassan Mwakinyo and France's Mohamed Mimoune in the past two years.
But Smith once again has returned to winning ways after a title fight defeat.
Smith lost the WBO world super welterweight title by knockout to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in a third defence in September 2016, and there were also two difficult wins over British rival Liam Williams -- Smith was trailing in the first fight before Williams was stopped on a cut by his corner -- before a unanimous points decision defeat to Canelo's fellow Mexican Munguia in his past fight.
But Smith looked sharper against Eggington than he had done in both Williams fights and this win keeps him in contention for another title opportunity.
Smith, 30, from Liverpool, last boxed in his home city as world champion three years ago and is now 10-0 at the city's indoor arena.
Smith targeted the body from the start and then switched to the head to land four hard shots in succession to end the third round.
After an excellent start from Smith, it was hard to see how Eggington could get into the fight.
Smith let his hands go again in the third round and Eggington's face was already looking swollen by the end of the round.
Eggington, who is perhaps best known for ending the career of American Paul Malignaggi two years ago, could hardly see out of his swollen right eye by the fifth round and Smith put him under siege from early in the round.
Smith was unrelenting in his punching output in the fifth round and it was uncomfortable viewing until the stoppage with a minute left.
Fitzgerald edges Fowler
Scott Fitzgerald dropped Anthony Fowler in the 10th and last round to seal a split points victory after an enthralling encounter on the undercard in Liverpool.
Fitzgerald got going from the fourth round and earned scores of 95-94 twice to 96-94 to edge out Fowler in the super-welterweight contest. The 10th round was decisive for Fitzgerald, who sent Fowler to the deck with a left hook.
"Winning this fight is going to kick me on now, it puts me in the top 15 of the world," Fitzgerald said.
It was an excellent matchup that lived up to expectations between two unbeaten English prospects, who both won gold medals when they were amateurs as part of the same national team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Fowler (9-1, 8 KOs), 28, from Liverpool, began the busier but in the fourth round found himself pegged back as Fitzgerald found his range.
Fitzgerald (13-0, 9 KOs), 27, from Preston, landed a series of jabs and some decent right hands in the fourth round and he finished the fifth round cut above his left eye.
Fowler, who turned professional after boxing at the 2016 Olympics, beat Fitzgerald when they were amateurs and they know each other well from sparring.
It was Fitzgerald who delivered the better game plan as he dictated from the fourth round.
Fitzgerald kept his composure, even when Fowler caught him in the sixth and seventh rounds. Fowler was having a good seventh round, boxing nicely behind his jab, until he was caught by an arcing, big right hand toward the end of the round.
It was close going into the last couple of rounds. Fowler assumed control in a big ninth round when Fitzgerald came close to being stopped. Fitzgerald was hurt by a right uppercut early in the round and then took a lot of solid shots as Fowler went for the stoppage.
Fitzgerald was dominated for most of the ninth, but a brilliant round ended with Fowler on the back foot. Fowler then had a calamitous last round when he was dropped with two clubbing left hands for a count and the Liverpool boxer was left on legs of jelly for most of the last round.
"I put everything into that ninth round, and felt a bit flat after that," Fowler said.
Davies Jr crowned European king
Robbie Davies Jr was crowned European super-lightweight champion after winning a close, grueling fight against Joe Hughes via a unanimous points decision.
Davies Jr (18-1, 12 KOs), 29, from Liverpool, finished with his right eye virtually swollen shut and blood streaming from his nose, but he finished strong and got the better of exchanges at close range.
One of the judges scored the close contest too wide -- 118-110 -- while the others were closer to the mark with 115-114, 115-113 for Davies, who also made a first defence of the British title he won in October.
"I just grinded it out," Davies said.
Hughes seemed to edge a close first half of the fight, with Davies stumbling in the fifth round and suffering some nose damage.
Davies' face increasingly became bloodied, but it did not stop him producing some tidy work behind his jab in the second half of the fight.
Hughes (17-4-1, 7 KOs), 28, from Malmesbury, won the European belt by earning a split decision over Andrea Scarpa in Italy in November, and some might have felt he deserved the decision over Davies.