By Danny Winterbottom, Ringside: “I knew if my boxing brain turned up tonight I could make it easy” said Derry Mathews back stage shortly after knocking out his challenger Curtis Woodhouse with a beautiful left hook, right hand combination in the fourth round to retain his Commonwealth lightweight title in front of his beloved fans inside Liverpool’s Olympia.
“I had been working on the left hook, right hand throughout training camp and it paid off tonight” explained Derry who was slumped in a chair, radiating with the glow of success as he fielded questions from the press.
“I’m getting married soon and thankfully I didn’t pick up any cuts which is a bonus” he joked.
In four rounds Mathews, the former British champion and European title challenger, had exerted his mastery over Woodhouse who had never fought at anything like this level before during his incredible journey from premier league footballer to English light welterweight king.
Both men prowled the ring during the prefight introductions, bodies sculpted from hard training sessions in anticipation of a war, but as Woodhouse (9st 8lbs 6oz), sporting a thick black beard, stalked Mathews (9st 8lbs 15oz) on the sound of the opening bell the man from Liverpool pumped out a jab and a straight right through his high held guard.
Chants of “Derry, Derry” filled the air in round two as more jabs and right hands zeroed in on the now reddening face of Woodhouse who simply couldn’t get close enough to attack with rigour.
Mathews smiled as Woodhouse finally pinned him on the ropes and left loose with lefts and rights to the body but as the pair exchanged blows Woodhouse seemed momentarily hurt by a counter right and retreated to the ropes.
The man from Driffield had to take three to land one but Mathews’ power was making him wary of just attacking with reckless abandon and this doubt played into the hands of the better technician who had the perfect antidote, the jab.
“I’m coming after Derry like he stole something from me” Woodhouse had said during the build-up to the fight but when Mathews landed jabs and right hands from range he simply had no answer and rather than cut the ring off he was following Mathews around.
“You don’t wanna follow a puncher” was one of big George Foreman’s favourite sayings in his role as a colour commentator for HBO and sure enough as Woodhouse tried to close the distance on Mathews in round four, he detonated a perfect left followed by a huge right that floored Woodhouse heavily.
As Curtis bravely made it to his feet his legs buckled and he staggered drunkenly across the ring and into the ropes. Referee Mark Green immediately waved the contest off as Mathews’ fans celebrated wildly. The end officially recorded as 1-14 of the fourth round.
“I want a chance to fight Ricky Burns” said Mathews later.
And after a career spanning 10 years and 44 fights it would be hard to begrudge the likeable Scouser a shot at the big time.
In the chief support Liam Smith made history when he captured the vacant British light middleweight title with a unanimous point’s decision over Erik Ochieng.
Judges Mark Green and Victor Laughlin scored the contest 117-112 whilst Steve Gray saw the bout a little closer, scoring 116-113.
Liam joined his brothers Paul and Stephen as a holder of a British title, a feat never before achieved by a family in the 105 year history of the Lonsdale belt.
Smith forced the action throughout behind his jab but Ochieng is a tricky customer and he picked some eye catching uppercuts when the pair came together.
The Stoke Newington man is happiest when he can feel the ropes on his back and when he was backed up by Smith the pair exchanged blows in enthralling give and take action that was hard to score in the early rounds.
Liam used his jab to set up chopping right hands when he had Ochieng cornered but the former English champion would almost always answer any Smith attack with a left to the body, but it was Smith’s greater accuracy that was edging him ahead in the close quarter exchanges and Smith swept the final four rounds as Ochieng tired in an entertaining clash of styles. Richie Davies officiated.
“I think the Smith family should be given the keys to the city” said trainer Joe Gallagher after the family’s remarkable success.
Rocky Fielding (11st 13lbs 9oz) made short work of Ghanaian Mohammed Akrong (11st 10lbs 11oz) stopping the visitor inside three minutes when capturing the vacant Commonwealth super middleweight title.
Akrong, sporting a goatee beard, had taken former world middleweight champion Marco Antonio Rubio five rounds in 2011 but he was physically out gunned by the much bigger man on the night and when Fielding landed flush with a beautifully delivered left hook Akrong crashed to the canvas in a daze.
He rose to his feet at seven but he was hurt again by Fielding and under heavy fire in his own corner when referee Steve Gray called a halt to the contest at 1-05 of the opening round.
“I’m happy with that performance because he came here to win and I caught him with a great shot” said Fielding.
After less than three minutes of action promoter Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports that Fielding would be in action again on the undercard of Carl Froch-George Groves in November.
In a stunning display of power punching Callum Smith (11st 13lbs 11oz), the youngest of the Smith brothers, created his own piece of British boxing history when he demolished the never before stopped Patrick Mendy (12st) in the first round of a scheduled 10 round affair for the vacant English super middleweight title, meaning the unbeaten 6’3” youngster has scored six consecutive first round knockouts in an eight fight slate.
Mendy, who had held Dmitry Chudinov to a draw last time out, represented a big step up in class for Smith but the 23-year-old is hitting so hard and accurately at the moment that Mendy was hurt every time a solid blow landed on his chin.
A big chopping right to the top of the head dropped Mendy in his own corner and a succession of heavy blows rocked him around the ring before referee Victor Laughlin jumped in to save him from any further punishment with seven seconds remaining in the round.
“To do that to a guy like Patrick Mendy after only seven fights is special” Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports.
“Mendy told me he was going to beat Callum and that I needed to sign him so he came here to win”
“Callum is the best prospect in the country and possibly the world so where do we go with him from here?”
Robbie Davies Jnr (10st 2lbs) stopped Josh Thorne (10st 1lbs) with a body shot in the opening round of a scheduled four threes and in the opening bout of the evening former GB amateur rep Ryan Aston (11st 7lbs 14oz) could only manage a draw with the Ingle trained Tyan Booth (11st 8lbs 4oz). Referee John Latham scoring 57-57. Alvin Finch officiated Davies-Thorne.