Liam Smith waited a long time to turn in his greatest performance.
The former junior middleweight titleholder, 34, stunned the boxing world by knocking out Chris Eubank Jr. in the fourth round Saturday at AO Arena in Manchester, England.
Smith put his fellow Englishman down twice, after which the latter was unable to continue. The official time of the stoppage was 1:09 of Round 4.
Eubank (32-3, 23 KOs) was deemed the better, hotter boxer and is the naturally bigger man, as Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs) moved up to middleweight for the fight.
Thus, Eubank was favored to win. And he performed like it for three-plus rounds, fighting behind his jab and using stick-and-move tactics to frustrate the slower Smith.
Then, in the fourth round, came the dramatic stoppage. Smith had Eubank trapped in a corner and unloaded a barrage of power shots, at least one of which sent him to the canvas and hurt him badly.
Eubank, who had never been stopped, got to his feet but was clearly unsteady as Smith pumped his fist in excitement as he retreated to a neutral corner. Referee Victor Loughlin would’ve been justified to stop the fight then and there.
Loughlin ultimately gave Eubank one more opportunity, but moments after the action resumed Smith put Eubank down again, which prompted Loughlin to save him from further punishment.
“I told you all week, don’t be surprised if I stop him,” Smith said. “I don’t know whether it was an accumulation of shots or that one punch. If Chris wants the rematch I will do it.”
Just like that, Smith, who had lost big fights against Canelo Alvarez and Jaime Munguia, had a defining victory that puts him in the thick of title contention at either 154 or 160 pounds when most thought his career was winding down.
And, yes, a rematch clause in the contract signed by both fighters could lead to a second fight, perhaps immediately. If it happens, you can bet that no one will underestimate the Liverpudlian.