Liam Smith made a successful first defense of his WBO junior middleweight title today in Manchester, stopping Jimmy Kelly in the seventh round when Kelly's corner threw in the towel.
Smith (22-0-1, 12 KO) did the job in front of him, and while the fight was rightly criticized coming in due to Kelly (16-1, 7 KO) being a totally unproven fighter with a paper ranking from the WBO allowing the fight to happen at all, the fight itself was an enjoyable watch, with both guys working hard and throwing punches. Kelly, 23, had never even fought at the higher levels domestically before this fight, but he showed up and looked pretty solid at moments, before he was eventually overwhelmed by the pressure and power of the 27-year-old titleholder.
While BoxNation's TV scoring had this a shutout at the time of the stoppage, BLH actually gave Kelly two of the first three rounds, and he had plenty of success in a couple of others, too, before he started to look a bit worse for wear in round six. That round, perhaps frustrated by the way things were going, Kelly threw a pretty blatant headbutt into the mix, costing him two points on the cards. BLH had it 58-54 for Smith at the time of stoppage.
The stoppage came in a bit of an unusual manner, as Kelly was being battered against the ropes, just worn out by the pressure from Smith, when he basically collapsed without being hit again. Referee Marcus McDonnell oddly ruled this to not be a knockdown -- it was, and should have been called as one -- but it didn't matter. Kelly's corner knew the score, and they waved it off with the white towel moments later, saving their fighter.
Smith won the title in October, so made a quick turnaround for his first defense, saying that he didn't even have time to celebrate winning before he had to get ready for the next fight. He recently negotiated for a fight with Shane Mosley (to whatever degree the negotiations were serious), and we'll have to see what he does next. He's got the belt, but he's also known only in the UK.
Promoter Frank Warren floated the name of Miguel Cotto after the bout in the post-fight interviews.
"In an ideal world, I'd like to get him out again in February on the Liverpool show. If he wants to do that, it's not a problem. If not, we'll sit down with his management and work out an opponent," Warren said. "The Cotto fight, if we could make that, I think we'd all be happy. But it's about (Liam Smith). He's still got a long way to go. I think he's only going to get better and better."
"I'd love to (fight in February)," Smith said. "I'm going to make a decision in the next couple of days. But I don't want to come flat and let all the hard work go. But I would love to do that fight in Liverpool."