By Gary Mushrow, ringside [Twitter: @Gary9690]
Stephen Smith saved a career best performance for when it really mattered last night, demolishing Italian Devis Boschiero inside six completed rounds in a final eliminator for the IBF super featherweight title.
In his first hometown fight in over a year, Smith got to work early boxing nicely from the jab whilst thudding left and right hooks to the body of his 34 year old counterpart.
A smart right hook had Boschiero down in round two, but the Italian arose from the count and gamely banged his gloves to continue the fight. Smith pounced immediately and a flurry of shots to the body and head had his opponent on the canvas once more, rising again by the count of six.
Dominant rounds were to follow, as Smith swept the board in rounds three, four and five, scoring another knock down in the fourth, where a crippling body shot forced Boschiero to take a knee before rising again, determined not to be beaten.
Ultimately it was not to be the Italian’s night, as a badly swollen left eye impaired his vision; Smith never let up on his damaged foe and beat the resolve out of the former European champion to the body as the referee called a halt to the contest midway through the sixth round.
“I knew the body shots would play a part and we were adamant they would hurt him,” Smith said after the contest.
“I’m happy Joe [Gallagher] said at the end it was a career best performance – I’m happy with that. He drummed it into me before the fight, this guy didn’t like it to the body. I hit him with one in the clinch and I heard the noise out of him, he was in shape but he just couldn’t take the shots.”
“I knew I was stronger than him, I could move him where I wanted around the ring even though he was built like a little body builder.”
Trainer Joe Gallagher was full of praise for his charge, “That was a career best performance against a former European champion and world title challenger. He showed power in both hands and he was just too good.”
In the chief support, local favourite Sean “Masher” Dodd stepped up in class to upset former British champion Gary Buckland over ten rounds.
The crowd favourite sold over 300 tickets at short notice for the contest, which he only accepted late on Monday evening after British champion Scotty Cardle pulled out of the title contest with a pulled muscle .
A gutsy performance saw both fighters hurt at different stages of the fight, but Dodd was the man who had that freshness and work rate to see the victory over the line.
“I had a couple of days notice and I used my boxing brain. I’m ecstatic, over the moon and this is unbelievable. It’s life changing this win. I now have plenty of time to prepare for this shot [against Cardle] and I really can’t wait. This is a big upset – I like upsetting people.”
Matchroom fighter Bradley Saunders suffered the first upset of the night, falling to a sixth round disqualification to an ecstatic Renald Garrido.
Saunders damaged his right hand during the second round of the fight and from there things went from bad to worse for the former amateur standout. After being hurt to the body and head and dropped for the first time in his career during round six, Saunders seemed to tire dramatically and frustration set in.
After being caught up in a clench, the 29 year old threw an intentional head butt at his opponent and referee Steve Gray called a halt to the contest immediately.