Elliot Foster watches Liam Smith perform well on away turf but end up on the wrong end of the decision against Magomed Kurbanov
Liam Smith will be heading back to England this weekend wondering just how he hasn’t got a new belt among his luggage. The Liverpudlian went to Ekaterinburg in Russia on Friday night in the hope of getting his world title ambitions back on track against the undefeated Magomed Kurbanov.
Smith, who had been out of the ring for 17 months leading into the contest, was without his long-time trainer Joe Gallagher, having been on an odyssey that led him back to his roots, the place of his boxing birth under the watchful eyes of local duo Joseph McNally and Declan O’Rourke at the Rotunda ABC.
The former WBO champion at 154 pounds had the better of the early stages, scoring what seemed to be a legitimate knockdown in the opener – which was ruled a slip by the referee – before picking up the pace and applying a lot of pressure to make Kurbanov work hard in return to get off his own shots.
Kurbanov, the local favourite who was born in Pervomaysk, Dagestan, rocked Smith in parts and the latter stages were particularly entertaining, with both having their successes.
And it appeared, come the final bell, that Smith had done enough to get the victory and claim the vacant WBO International bauble, but somehow it was Kurbanov’s hand that was raised and he may well now go on to face Tim Tszyu. The Russian took a unanimous decision, 115-113 twice and 117-112.
Tszyu is the WBO’s number one contender to their champion Brian Castano and, with the latter meeting Jermell Charlo for all of the other major belts in the division in July, it could well be that Tszyu-Kurbanov is made as a final eliminator to face the winner.
Kurbanov moves on to 22-0 (13 KOs) as a professional with the win, while Smith, who was flanked in Russia by his three brothers Paul, Stephen and Callum, slips to 29-3-1, with 16 quick finishes, in defeat.