Liam Smith settled his differences with Chris Eubank Jr. in emphatic fashion, stopping his English middleweight rival in four rounds on Saturday.
Smith floored Eubank twice, shattering his hopes of facing 40-year-old veteran Gennadiy Golovkin, the WBA and IBF world champion. Eubank went into the fight as ESPN's No. 5-ranked middleweight, but this crushing loss casts doubt on whether he can win a world title like his father, Chris, a champion at middleweight and super middleweight in the 1990s.
No belts were on the line Saturday, but Smith will take an enormous amount of satisfaction in beating Eubank after an ugly buildup to the fight. At a news conference Thursday, Smith taunted Eubank over his sexuality, and Eubank made remarks about Smith's private life and his home city of Liverpool. Both fighters apologized for their remarks, and there is every chance there will be a sequel as long as Eubank can make the middleweight limit.
Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs), 34, from Liverpool, has had a roller-coaster career. He made two defenses as WBO welterweight champion in 2015-16 and also suffered a knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez in 2016. After his win over Eubank, he can look forward to another elite-level fight.
But Eubank has some thinking to do about his next move after being beaten by Smith, who last year was operating at super welterweight.
Eubank (33-3, 23 KOs), 33, from Brighton, who had four-weight world champion Roy Jones Jr. in his corner as trainer, had not fought for nearly a year after his fight against Conor Benn was cancelled due to his opponent testing positive for a banned substance at late notice last year. But despite the ring layoff, Eubank still went into this encounter as a big betting favorite.
After he stopped Jessie Vargas in April, Smith's recent form suggested he could give Eubank problems, and he began confidently on the front foot.
Eubank's jab faltered, and he failed to establish any authority in the opening two rounds, but he was better in the third round.
The Brighton-based boxer began landing with his jab before introducing his right uppercut into the contest, and he landed at least half a dozen uppercuts in the third round alone.
But Eubank's improvement was short-lived as he was left stunned by an ambush early in the fourth round.
Smith put pressure on Eubank in the corner before he uncorked a huge left uppercut to chop down his rival and left him slumped on the canvas.
Eubank quickly to got to his feet, but he was still on unsteady legs after a count. Smith showed no mercy, landing a big right to send him down again, and referee Victor Loughlin stopped the fight at 1 minute, 9 seconds of the fourth round.
Eubank's senses were so scrambled he tried to fight on after the referee waved it off, and he was left with a badly swollen right eye by the shot.
"I told you all week, don't be surprised if I stop him," Smith said. "I don't know whether it was an accumulation of shots or that one punch. If Chris wants the rematch I will do it."
Said Eubank: "I felt I could have gone on, but big respect to Liam."
On the undercard, New Zealand's Joseph Parker, the former WBO world heavyweight champion, returned to winning ways with a dominant unanimous-decision win over Jack Massey.
After being knocked out by Joe Joyce in the 11th round in September, Parker (32-3, 21 KOs) had to settle for scores of 97-93, 97-92 and 96-93 rather than a knockout.
English cruiserweight contender Richard Riakporhe stopped former WBO world champion Krzysztof Glowacki in four rounds to put himself in the mix for a big fight in 2023.
Riakporhe (16-0, 12 KOs), 33, is No. 2 with the IBF and No. 5 with the WBC world governing bodies and looks ready for a world title shot in 2023 after this destructive win of a former world champion.
A fight against London rival Lawrence Okolie (18-0, 14 KOs), the WBO champion and ESPN's No. 2 at 200 pounds, seems a likely scenario. Both fighters now have the same promoter, BOXXER, and UK broadcaster. Okolie (18-0, 14 KOs), 30, defends his belt against David Light on March 11.
"The next stop, all the champions," Riakporhe said. "[Jai] Opetaia, [Ilunga] Makabu, Okolie, [Arsen] Goulamirian, I'm coming for you."
Glowacki (32-4, 20 KOs), 36, whom Okolie stopped in six rounds in March 2021, was staggered by a short right hand in the second round but quickly recovered.
But Riakporhe continued to threaten with his right hand and in the fourth round he unloaded a body shot followed by a ferocious attack of hooks. With Glowacki backed into a corner and not returning fire, referee Howard Foster made a sensible stoppage.