After a fascinating and even start to Saturday’s much-anticipated middleweight main event at the AO Arena that was marred by offensive comments made in an unpleasant final press conference, ‘Beefy’ suddenly erupted in the fourth round and sealed a staggering upset to provide a major boost to his hopes of becoming a two-time and two-weight world champion.
High-pressure fighter Smith initially rocked Eubank Jr with a shuddering left uppercut before unloading a barrage of heavy, accurate punches in the corner to send his bewildered and devastated opponent - usually renowned for his solid chin - down for the first time.
Eubank Jr hopped up quickly to beat the count but was staggering everywhere on very wobbly legs and Smith then moved in for an emphatic finish, landing a couple of further punishing shots to send him slumping to the canvas again as referee Victor Loughlin stepped in to wave off the bout at the same time as trainer Roy Jones Jr was preparing to toss in the towel.
While Smith’s incredible triumph continued a career renaissance for the former WBO light-middleweight champion that had already taken in impressive wins over the likes of Jessie Vargas and Liverpool rival Anthony Fowler, Eubank Jr’s third loss and first via knockout leaves him at a crossroads and greatly damages his prospects of securing big-name and world title fights in the near future.
Eubank Jr has a rematch clause written into his contract and quickly suggested that they could stage a second contest at Anfield, although questions will be asked as to if he really wants to face the same opponent again after such a brutal stoppage to follow previous losses against Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves.
On Saturday’s packed undercard, Richard Riakporhe laid a serious claim for his maiden world title shot after dismantling two-time cruiserweight world champion Krzysztof Glowacki with his own emphatic fourth-round finish.
Ekow Essuman retained his British and Commonwealth welterweight titles with a gruelling decision win over Chris Kongo, while Joseph Parker made a winning return to the ring four months after losing a thriller against Joe Joyce at the same venue, but he was taken the distance by former cruiserweight champion Jack Massey making his heavyweight debut.
Britain’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medalist Frazer Clarke moved to 5-0 after dominating Argentina’s Kevin Espindola and fellow heavyweight Matty Harris stopped Jiri Surmaj inside the first round after local prospect Frankie Stringer won a four-rounder against Cristian Narvaez.