In the chief supporting contest to the Mathews v Woodhouse Commonwealth title fight at the Liverpool Olympia, Liam ’Beefy’ Smith won the British light middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Erick ‘The Eagle’ Ochieng. In doing so, Liam completed a hat-trick of current British champions for the Smith family – a first in the esteemed 104-year history of the Lord Lonsdale Challenge Belt.
He joins older brothers Paul (super middleweight) and Stephen (super featherweight), and thoroughly deserved the win after a terrific twelve rounds against the tough Ochieng. Judges Mark Green and Victor Loughlin scored 117-112, with Steve Gray carding 116-113, identical to BoxRec News.
Referee Richie Davies was an untroubled spectator for the entire fight – both men willing to work inside with not a clinch or a call for break in sight. The opening round started as a jabbing contest although Ochieng found room to land with the right uppercut several times – a punch he would have success with throughout the fight. Smith was able to fire his left hook as his main weapon, landing to both body and head.
Smith was the tighter defensively and negated some of Ochieng’s effort by catching shots on his gloves and arms, although in round four Ochieng smacked in a fast right hand which caused Liam to recalibrate his own defences – noticeably bringing up his left hand higher in response. Smith was responsible for initiating much of the fight – Ochieng comfortable with his back to the ropes, still able to find room to keep Smith from becoming too confident.
At the midway point it was still anyone’s fight, but the quality punches were coming from Smith. Round seven was one of those rounds where it appeared Smith had been outworked by Ochieng, but from close up at ringside, much of Erick’s work failed to land on target, and although Smith was slightly more economical, his shots were accurate. It wouldn’t surprise me if the judges saw it as a clear Ochieng round, although I gave it to Smith for the reasons described. The eighth was much easier to score however, with Liam seemingly swaying Ochieng with a solid right hand and piling in straight shots after trapping him in a corner. It was Smith who was enjoying it more, smiling as he worked and gaining in confidence with each passing round.
In round eleven Smith and Ochieng occupied a position by Smith’s corner for almost three minutes and punched away at each other. Erick’s left hook was still finding the target but the body shots employed by Liam throughout the contest were beginning to take their toll his opponent. Smith wisely got behind his jab in the last, retreating for the first time in the fight, albeit briefly, before his pride kicked in to begin exchanging with Ochieng once more. Both men should be commended for their fitness in being able to maintain such a pace for 36 minutes. It was Smith who knew he had done enough at the bell to end the fight, completing a remarkable three months in which Paul, Stephen and now Liam have all captured British titles.
In another Commonwealth title fight on the undercard, this time in the super middleweight division, Liverpool’s Rocky Fielding destroyed Ghana’s Mohammed Akrong in 1:05 of the opening round. Fielding (11st 3lb 9oz) jumped all over Akrong (11st 10lb 11oz) after dropping him with a hard left hook. Akrong tried in vain to fire back, but Fielding was able to use his height and reach to whack away safe in the knowledge he was himself out of distance from Akrong’s desperate swings. As the stricken Akrong took more accurate head shots with his back to the ropes, referee Steve Gray wisely stopped it. Azumah Nelson’s plaque in the Ghanaian Boxing Hall of Fame isn’t in danger of being usurped any time soon.
Earlier in the night, the youngest of the fighting brothers – Callum Smith (11st 13lb 11oz) – put in yet another seriously impressive performance by blowing away former Prizefighter champion Patrick Mendy (12 st) in the first round. It was Smith’s sixth consecutive opening round win. In doing so, Callum picked up the vacant English super middleweight title. It was two right hands which backed Mendy to the ropes and a left hook which shook him to his boots before another chopping right sent Mendy to the canvas. His eyes were in orbit for the last minute of the round as Smith stalked his victim and bashed away until referee Victor Loughlin was left with no choice but to step in. Official time in round one was 2:53.
Callum looks to be ready for British titles already, with brother Paul talking of vacating if successful in his next defence to allow his younger brother the opportunity to keep the super middleweight belt in the family. Smith simply carries far too much power for anybody at domestic level, and fights with the likes of Kenny Anderson and now new Commonwealth champion Fielding don’t seem unreasonable despite Smith still being in his first year as a professional.