The plan for Callum Smith at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool on Saturday night was surely to defend his belts convincingly, to put himself in the frame for some big-money fights in 2020.
What he didn’t bargain for was Islington’s John Ryder giving him a stern examination. It took a unanimous points verdict which divided the boxing fraternity to allow Smith to retain his WBA (Super), WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine Super Middleweight belts.
Ryder was at a distinct size disadvantage, and the opener saw Smith attempt to dictate using his jab in what was a cagey beginning to proceedings.
Ryder would duck under this jab in round two, chipping away at Smith with some good combination shots. Smith did find success with some good combinations of his own in the third, but back came Ryder with a nice solid shot to “Mundo’s” midriff.
Ryder’s body assault continued in the next, with both men sporting nicks on their eyes in the session. The fifth and sixth arguably belonged to the champion, with his right hand proving a potent weapon, but the seventh and eighth saw Ryder roar back, even backing Smith up against the ropes as he grew in confidence.
The pair traded in the ninth as Smith complained of Ryder leading in with his head, and Ryder again backed Smith up into the championship rounds. The final two frames were frenetic, with both men emptying their tanks, trading heavy leather at the same time.
Both men celebrated in what looked like a close contest, but the judges had other opinions.
Jose Roberto Torres and Francisco Alloza Rosa both tallied 116-112, while Terry O’Connor turned in a shocking 117-111 card. All three were harsh on Ryder, who certainly gave a good account of himself in defeat.
Post fight, Smith told our reporter that he didn’t feel ‘John Ryder did enough to win the fight’ & put his below par performance down to lack of motivation at having to defend against Ryder.
“I want the best names in the division and I’m not disrespecting John Ryder but there was no fear tonight,” said Smith.
“I didn’t believe John Ryder was good enough to beat me. There are fighters that I believe are good enough to beat me that don’t perform and that’s going to bring out the best in me. That’s what I want, I want the big names.
“I just want a big name, where if I turn up like tonight I’ll lose. That fear brings out the best performance in me, I feel I need that.”
Equally in the post fight press conference, Smiths’ trainer Joe Gallagher expressed his frustration with the referee and the use of Ryder’s head.
On the undercard, Chris Billam Smith claimed the vacant Commonwealth Cruiserweight title with a fifth round stoppage of Craig Glover.
Bournemouth’s Billam-Smith was last seen being edged out by Richard Riakporhe in July, and he put himself on course for a rematch after overcoming a slow start.
I reckon I’ll knock out CBS in a rematch.
— Richard Riakporhe (@R_Riakporhe) November 23, 2019
Glover started well, but suffered a cut over his right eye in the opening round. The end of the fourth though saw “The Gentleman” take control. and a chopping right followed by two more hooks felled Glover, who survived the count.
Stoppage win for @ChrisBillam! 💥 Billam-Smith becomes the commonwealth cruiserweight champion ending the fight in the 5th!
📺 Smith v Ryder is up next on Sky Sports Action & Main Event! pic.twitter.com/9159V71AD6
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) November 23, 2019
This was the beginning of the end though, as Billam-Smith dropped Glover again in the fifth with a volley of shots, and, on the resumption, several meaty blows rained in, and a glancing left hook dropped the home fighter once again, with the referee waving the contest off.
Anthony Fowler continued his rebuild, and his quest for a Scott Fitzgerald rematch, with a wide points win against the unambitious Harry Scarff to win the vacant WBA International Super Welterweight title.
Fowler began on the front foot, while Scarff switched from southpaw to orthodox in an attempt to confuse the Liverpudlian. Scarff’s only real success was on the counter, as Fowler’s accuracy was keeping him in control of the contest. From the fifth onwards, it was Fowler, and his right hand in particular, that was easily winning him the fight.
Derby based Scarff did have a go in the ninth round, but, while letting his hands go, a short right hook from Fowler scored a knockdown. He rose and continued, and Fowler looked for the knockout in the last, but was forced to settle for an across the board 98-91 win on the cards.
James Tennyson is the mandatory challenger for the British Lightweight title after another knockout win.
This time it was in the penultimate round, as he finally managed to dispatch Welshman, Craig Evans. It was a right uppercut and a massive left hand that started the damage, and when a wobbly Evans was caught again by several heavy blows, the referees intervention was a welcome one.
The meeting between Tom Farrell and Sean Dodd went the way of Birkenhead’s “Masher” but the fight was curtailed after four rounds after Farrell suffered a nasty cut above his eye after an accidental clash of heads in the fourth round.
The British Super Lightweight title eliminator went to the cards with two scores of 39-37 and 39-38 over ruling a third at 38-38.