By Arne K. Lang
In a fight that was much closer than the final scores indicated, Callum Smith successfully defended his WBA world 168-pound title with a 12-round unanimous decision over John Ryder. Fighting on his home turf in Liverpool, Smith 27-0 (19) won by scores of 117-111 and 116-112 twice. With the victory, he stayed on course for a mega-fight at Liverpool's historic Anfield Stadium, the home since 1894 of the Liverpool Football Club.
Smith hopes to lure Canelo Alvarez to Anfield. If he succeeds, it would likely draw a crowd of around 55,000. But Canelo likely wants no part of Liverpool as he undoubtedly wouldn't get a break from the judges if the fight went the full 12.
If you believe that Callum Smith is very good, then you must concede that Ryder (26-5, 16 KOs) is a world class fighter. He wasn't intimidated by Smith, often backing him into the ropes and he wobbled the champion in the 11th frame. Heading in, Ryder had won his last four inside the distance against opponents who were collectively 89-2-1 and his late career resurgence continued, notwithstanding the viewpoints of the judges.
In a lightweight bout slated for 12, Northern Ireland’s James Tennyson advanced to 26-3 (22) with an 11th round stoppage of Craig Evans (20-3-2). Tennyson dropped his Welsh opponent in the opening round and dominated the second frame, but the gutsy Evans stayed the course until the 11th when the referee saved him from further punishment.
This was Tennyson’s fourth bout as a lightweight since getting stopped in the fifth round by defending IBF 130-pound champion Tevin Farmer at Boston. He has won all four inside the distance.
In a match for the vacant Commonwealth (British Empire) cruiserweight title, Liverpool’s Chris Glover (10-3) found himself over his head against Chris Billam-Smith who improved to 10-1 with his ninth knockout. Billam-Smith, trained by Shane McGuigan, had too much sock for the local lad, knocking him down hard near the end of the fourth round and twice more in the fifth before the referee had seen enough.
In a junior middleweight contest, Liverpool’s Anthony Fowler, a former Olympian, improved to 11-1 (8) with a 10-round unanimous decision over Harry Scarff (8-1). Fowler was the aggressor throughout and had Scarff on the deck in the ninth round.
The scores were 98-91 across the board. Fowler’s lone defeat was by split decision in a 10-round barnburner with Scott Fitzgerald. A rematch is on the drawing board.
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