It was all a bit of a blur to be honest – Callum Smith knocking Rocky Fielding down three times in the first round to claim the vacant British Super Middleweight title. But what a 165 seconds of super-concentrated action it was in Liverpool.
It’s amazing how our mind can play tricks on us. When this match-up was announced few gave Fielding much of a chance, Rocky continually defying the odds on his way to a perfect 21-0 record including Prizefighter and Commonwealth glory.
In Smith he faced a fellow Liverpudlian and top prospect for whom matching his three brothers’ Lonsdale belt achievements was merely an expected stepping stone to bigger things. Somebodies ‘0’ had to go and you almost instantly assumed it wasn’t going to be Callum’s.
But then you start believing the derby hype, you’re drawn into by the ‘niggle’ between their trainers and the DeGale, Groves-style amateur rivalry. All of a sudden the odds start to shorten for the big-punching underdog as the first bell approaches. You slide forwards in your chair – you just never know with an unbeaten fighter.
“Seconds out, round one”
A circumspect start as both fighters circle centre ring toe-to-toe. A couple of wafting jabs from Fielding miss before he lands the first blow with a glancing left jab. Simultaneous jabs from both men follow, both barely leaving a mark. Chants of “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky” from the capacity Echo Arena crowd.
Another weak left-hand flick from Fielding leaves him open to a big straight right from Smith that lands flush on Fielding’s chin. Visibly shaken, Fielding lifts his head from the first blow as Callum repeats the straight right and lands flush again. Unerring accuracy from range from Smith as a left-hook sends Fielding back-peddling to the canvas less than 30 seconds in.
Rocky quickly takes a knee and gets to his feet at the count of six with a sheepish grin on his face. Matching blue gum shield on full display, referee Phil Edwards calls the fight back on.
Fielding lunges forward under the Smith radar, latching on to his opponent as the rabbit punches dig in for his troubles. The referee ensures only momentary respite for Fielding as Smith frees his arms for another onslaught. Hooks, uppercuts, straight rights rain in from Smith, Fielding part stumbling, part ducking, managing to avoid many of them landing cleanly.
Another straight right-hand through the middle from Smith sends Fielding back-peddling towards the ropes. Three more follow in quick succession from Smith but Fielding is on his bike and his movement and flailing arms help to avoid the worst of it again.
As the clock ticks into the second minute of the contest Fielding is backed against the ropes, stooped low, covering up. Desperately trying to ride the Smith-storm, Fielding almost sitting on the second rope digs in as six, seven, eight left-right swings come in from Smith in quick succession.
Fielding bravely comes up for air swinging knowing he has to fight back. He catches and hurts Smith with one of his flailing lefts, both men happy to clinch for a moment as Mr. Edwards steps in again.
Smith with his guard held high allows Fielding to push him back towards the middle of the ring, possibly a ploy to flush Fielding out into the open and tempting him to lower his guard again. Smith was significantly less effective close up and his punches had started to lose their bite and accuracy.
Another brief clinch is broken up in centre ring before Fielding again makes camp on the ropes. Smith steps up the rate again with a flurry of punches working their way up Fielding’s body towards his head, but many blocked by Rocky’s tight guard.
Fielding uses the ropes to propel himself into defiant counters as Callum takes another breather. The odd shot from Fielding making contact but Smith untroubled.
The crowd are in a constant state of frenzy as Fielding seems to have settled on a rope-a-dope tactic approach, trying to draw the sting out of Smith and wrapping him up when he gets too close. Callum manages to get his left arm free and doubles up with it, but back comes Rocky flailing his way off the ropes.
A left-right, left-right flurry from Fielding is brought to a shuddering halt by a left-hook from Smith, who walks Fielding down with a menacing smile on his face. Remarkably Rocky grins back.
Callum gets caught with a straight right as he lunges in and then a right uppercut shakes the sweat loose from his head as Fielding continues to look the savvier fighter up close. The Rocky comeback music might be in order soon as Fielding’s confidence is visibly growing and with it the support of the crowd.
Stiff-looking left-right combinations send Smith back towards the centre of the ring before a big left-hand counter from Smith drops Fielding onto his backside again. Wow, what a shot. Rocky had left himself open by taking the attack back to Callum but he walked onto a sweet hook there.
Fielding takes a six count again, this time on a visibly shakier knee with Smith chomping at the bit in the neutral corner ready to finish him off. Fielding is back up but looking unsteady as he puts his gloves up to signal he wants to continue. 30 seconds remaining as the referee calls the action back on.
Smith backs Fielding towards the ropes again, setting himself for one final first round onslaught. Fielding throws out a couple of punches to try to keep his opponent at a safe distance but Smith counters expertly, springing forward with a big right and following up with a blinding flurry of unanswered shots from both wings.
Rocky’s punch resistance has gone and as he sinks onto the second rope this time, a pair of left-hands body shots from Callum send Fielding to the canvas for a third and final time.
Fielding bravely manages to make it to his feet for the count of eight but the referee is having none of it and waves the fight off with 15 seconds of the first round still remaining.
A stunning win from Smith and no disgrace for Fielding, who should get another crack at this title when Callum vacates the British scene in search of world honours next year.
Richard Coleman, Pundit Arena
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