SUPER-MIDDLEWEIGHT Callum Smith maintained his 100 per cent record on home soil at the M&S Arena with a distance victory over Islington’s John “The Gorilla” Ryder, completing a second successful defence of his WBA title in the process.
But there was surprise at the margin of his victory after a close-fought affair refereed by Mike Alexander, during which he was pushed hard throughout by the gutsy Londoner.
Tallies of 116-112 twice, from judges Francisco Alloza Rosa (Spain) and Jose Roberto Torres (Puerto Rico), along with a wider 117-111 from Terry O’Connor might well have seen “Mundo” home – but it’s a while since I recall three scores prompt such comment amongst seasoned ringsiders, surprised not so much at the result, but at the margin of Callum’s victory.
For what it’s worth I thought the challenger’s strong last couple of rounds might just have proved enough for him to nick it.
I was of the opinion that southpaw Ryder, pressing for long periods and increasingly getting in beneath Smith’s jab, was having more success in up close than the taller champion was having from a distance.
Both boxers had finished the fourth with cuts by their right eyes (Callum finished with two) and at that point after what had been a slightly better start I had Smith just ahead.
Yet the middle stages proved closer and the visitor, buoyed by his success, came on strongly as the end approached, taking the last two for me and prompting wild scenes of celebration – short-lived as it turned out – at the final bell.
It’s open to interpretation whether Callum’s performance, in which he admitted being disappointed, was helped by the fact he’d banked only three championship rounds in the previous 14 months – or whether Ryder simply proved a far tougher opponent than had been anticipated.
What’s certain is that if a hoped-for clash with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez does become reality, then a significant improvement will be required.
Belfast’s James Tennyson took on Blackwood southpaw Craig Evans in a Celtic-flavoured final eliminator for the British lightweight title and secured a fourth consecutive inside the distance win.
One minute of the 11th remained when, despite the complaints of the battered, bruised and ultra-gutsy Welshman who had contributed to quite a war, referee Steve Gray rightly decided enough was enough.
Evans had been down from a fine right uppercut as early as the first, hot on the heels of a clubbing left which left him with a badly swollen eye.
Along the way, Craig had also fallen victim to a low blow, an errant elbow and a bash of heads in the eighth that flattened his nose. Yet he kept battling right until the penultimate session when, having been rocked by another huge left, he was rescued after shipping four or five weighty head shots.
The vacant Commonwealth cruiserweight title was up for grabs when Liverpool’s Craig Glover went in against Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith and it was the taller, more polished visitor who went away with the title.
Referee Mr Lyson intervened with 75 seconds of the fifth remaining as Craig, trailing by a distance and already having been down from a right uppercut and a pair of lefts late in the previous round, and again from a left just moments earlier, crumpled once more under fire.
A super-welterweight 10 between local favourite Anthony Fowler and Derby’s recently crowned English champion Harry Scarff went the way of the former, who took it 98-91 on the cards of all three judges (Alexander, O’Connor and Torres).
Harry, who will learn from the experience, had been hurt to the body early on. From that point onwards, bearing in mind he was away from home and in with a puncher, he proved a little reluctant to engage.
The contest moved away from him as a consequence and the busier Fowler, confidence growing, made sure in the ninth when he dropped Harry in centre ring with a short left.
Another British title eliminator, this one an all-Merseyside affair at super-lightweight between Liverpool’s Tom Farrell and Birkenhead’s Sean Dodd, was cruelly cut short after just four rounds.
An accidental head clash left Tom with a nasty cut running upwards from the bridge of his nose, a wound that survived an initial inspection but prevented any further progress once the session ended.
With a technical decision result required as well as a likely rematch, it went to the cards with Dodd, slightly more the aggressor while it lasted, ahead 39-37 and 39-38 for judges Terry O’Connor and Steve Gray while Mike Alexander had it level at 38-38.
Callum’s older brother Stephen Smith shook off a little more rust with a one-sided 60-54 win over Sandhurst’s Jonny Phillips, who made it through to the finish despite having been under the cosh throughout, Swifty frequently hurting him to the body. Mark Lyson refereed.
Light-heavy Thomas-Whittaker Hart stepped in against Croat Josip Perkovic and emerged victorious via the short route.
Referee Lyson halted it four seconds shy of the halfway mark in the fifth and penultimate session as the increasingly bested Perkovic half-turned away from the fray as Tom clipped him with one last right.
A pair of fours overseen by Steve Gray which pitched one-bout local novices Tom Aitchison and Marcos Molloy in against Matija Petrinic (Croatia) and Stockport’s Jamie Quinn went pretty much to plan.
Lightweight Marcos bested Quinn 40-37 while up at super-lightweight Tom, mixing it up nicely, had it very much his own way and finished a shut-out winner.
The Verdict More fuel is added to the raging fire over how fights are scored.
Callum Smith (167lbs 7oz), 27-0 (19), w pts 12 John Ryder (167lbs 7oz), 28-5 (16); James Tennyson (134 3/4lbs), 26-3 (22), w rsf 11 Craig Evans (134lbs), 20-3-2 (3); Chris Billam-Smith (198lbs 11oz), 10-1 (9), w tco 5 Craig Glover (198lbs 5oz), 10-3 (8); Anthony Fowler (153lbs 13oz), 11-1 (8), w pts 10 Harry Scarff (152lbs 15oz), 8-1 (1); Sean Dodd (139lbs 14oz), 17-5-1 (4), w td 4 Tom Farrell (140lbs), 17-3 (5); Thomas Whittaker-Hart (178lbs 7oz), 4-0 (2), w rsf 5 Josip Perkovic (180lbs 10oz), 6-11-1 (3); Stephen Smith (140lbs), 28-4 (15), w pts 6 Jonny Phillips (140bs), 5-3 (2); Tom Aitchison (142lbs 7oz), 2-0, w pts 4 Matija Petrinic (139lbs 9oz), 1-2; Marcos Molloy (137lbs), 2-0, w pts 4 Jamie Quinn (136 1/2lbs), 6-95-2.