PRIDE and local bragging rights were at stake in what was a huge fight for Liverpool when Liam Smith and Anthony Fowler clashed in a heated tussle at the M&S Bank Arena.

Local aficionado’s opined that not since another of the Smith clan, Callum, went in with Rocky Fielding at this very same venue a little over six years ago and ultimately won in the blink of an eye, had interest been so high.

Fowler, on something of a roll, had stopped his last four but “Beefy” had only once failed to reach the final bell, that being five years previously in Texas when a body shot delivered by Saul Alvarez in the ninth ended his brave mission. However, early indications were that Anthony might just be on for an early night; by the end of the opener Liam was cut above the left eye, from a punch, and was on the back foot and a buoyant Fowler was landing with both hands.

Smith is made of stern stuff though and with his eye attended to and having endured some further punishment in the third, he began to turn the tables, sufficiently so as to leave Fowler with a cut above his own eye, a neat combination doing the trick. 

From that point onwards, and working away both inside and behind the jab, Liam increasingly called the shots and he had his supporters roaring mid-way through the fifth when he caught Fowler coming in with a heavy right and sat him down in centre ring. The Toxteth man was up quickly but was hurt and he had to take several more before retreating to the sanctity of his corner at the bell.

With the bit now firmly between his teeth Smith retained the initiative, slowly but surely breaking Fowler down. When the favourite slammed home a left upstairs, hot on the heels of punishing hooks to both head and body, Anthony was sent over backwards. Referee Howard Foster waved it off with 56 seconds of the eighth still to go despite the count just being beaten.

A highly anticipated chief-support bout between Bermondsey crowd pleaser Ted Cheeseman and Darlington’s unbeaten Troy Williamson lived up to all expectations and saw the Londoner relieved of his British super-welterweight title, halted 50 seconds into the 10th by the heavy handed challenger.

Ted is of course not averse to being involved in wars and this latest outing was another that will likely find it way into the ‘Fight of the Year’ category such was the brutality on display. Neither champion nor challenger looked to hold or take a backward step.

I had Cheeseman, sticking to his boxing, ahead in the early sessions and at the start of the fourth I was wondering when the pace was going to warm-up. The answer came quickly. Troy ventured onto the front foot and tagged Ted with a couple of glancing lefts as the round neared its end.

Further clubbing rights left Ted with some damage below the left eye and while those early rounds might not have been the wildest sessions, the battle was increasingly coming to the boil. The action, suddenly, was furious. Williamson got through with an increasing number of weighty hooks and rocked Ted with a right as the bell sounded to end the fifth.

The sixth was a real see-saw battle with Cheeseman opening with a great right uppercut before once again finding himself under fire. The following round was an absolute cracker with Ted, wobbled early by a huge left, rallying sufficiently to have Troy seemingly on the verge of defeat in the dying embers of the stanza.

At that point it looked like either could go but Williamson, having weathered the storm, regrouped and was looking increasingly confident. He caught Ted with another big left late in the ninth and duly finished the job in the next, a right uppercut followed quickly by another clubbing left hook flooring the champion. Referee Mike Alexander correctly waved it off without taking up a count.

Cheeseman has now wisely indicated he will take a break from the sport and consider his future.

Watford’s Shannon Courtenay, having lost the bantamweight strap she’d won by halting New Zealander Ebanie Bridges six months previously on the scales, looked absolutely astonished not to be awarded victory at the conclusion of her clash against unbeaten Las Vegas resident, Jamie Mitchell.

In truth, she had scant cause for complaint as the American, who had never previously faced anyone with a winning record and whose punches might not have possessed a deal of dynamite, outworked and outboxed Shannon. She appeared to have it well and truly won before tiring in the later stages.

Courtenay’s best chance of victory, having fallen short with so many previous shots   came in the eighth when she rocked the American with a huge right but it wasn’t to be. The cards at the finish read a far too close 95-95, 96-94 and a more realistic 97-93. Steve Gray refereed.  

A 10 overseen by the same official between Northampton’s Kieron Conway and local favourite James Metcalf saw Conway a unanimous winner with judges Phil Edwards, Howard Foster and Steve Gray scoring 96-95, 96-94, 96-95 respectively. Returning to winning ways after defeat in Texas last time out, Kieron made the most of his height and reach advantages and while action in the second half proved closer than what had gone before. It certainly wasn’t a classic but saying such on a show that delivered so much seems somewhat pedantic.

Persistent holding saw a rapidly tiring Luke Willis docked a point mid-way through the last by Fleetwood’s Mr Gray. The indiscretion almost cost him victory in this English lightweight title eliminator against Norwich’s Rylan Charlton, but Willis won by the narrowest of margins with judges Alexander, Edwards and Foster turning in cards reading 95-95, 95-94 and 95-94. BN had Liverpool southpaw Willis, who worked well off the back foot and made Charlton miss frequently early on, a slightly handier winner but he didn’t have much left at the end as Rylan pressed forward looking to finish it late. 

Local southpaw Blane Hyland had the beating of 36-year-old Beziers flyweight Santiago San Eusebio in the evening’s curtain raiser, being three rounds to the good and cruising before easing off a little and allowing the visitor to nick what became a scruffy last round.

Mike Alexander tallied 39-37 and the same official had Warley heavy Solomon Dacres a 78-74 winner against Barnstaple based Pole Kamil Sokolowski who, while bested for the most part and seeming hurt by a right in the sixth, provided the man from the West Midlands with a decent, if at times somewhat pedestrian, further eight round of professional learning.

A bout made at the 11th hour and somewhat fancifully scheduled for six between Kirkby’s Robbie Davies Jnr and Sandhurst’s Jonny Phillips was halted with 32 seconds of the fourth session still to run. Referee Gray mercifully bringing a halt to what had very quickly become a one-sided affair.

And if all of that wasn’t enough there was a first outing in the paid ranks for former stand-out amateur Peter McGrail who, with an absolutely huge army of supporters urging him on, dominated against Blackpool’s Ed Harrison en-route to being adjudged a 60-54 winner for Mr Gray.

The Verdict A first class domestic show that highlights why Liverpool is a premier fight city.