Smith snatches the Lonsdale belt from Simpson – pic by www.chrisbevanphotography.co.uk
Liverpool’s Stephen ‘Swifty’ Smith won the British featherweight championship belt last night out-pointing John Simpson over the distance to win a majority decision in a tight fought rematch at the Olympia in Liverpool.

Smith 25, almost lived up to his nickname in the first round and swiftly set about the champion from the first bell, looking to end the fight early. A solid right hand and left hook to the tip of Simpson’s jaw, had the Scottish champion hurt and in trouble with his legs disobeyed him.

The Liverpool challenger looked intent on taking Simpson’s head off in that first round and an array of hard accurate shots followed has he tried to rip the Lonsdale belt away. But Simpson who has never been stopped in his previous 29 fights, proved his steel again and quickly re-grouped his senses to end the opening session with some good counter shots of his own.

Simpson 27, had lost the pairs first encounter in September last year together with his commonwealth title, when Smith won a split decision on away ground in against the Greenock man at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. It was Smith’s turn to have the home advantage this time and the Liverpool crowd didn’t disappoint him in there vocal support.

The champion though has proven before he is unfased with fighting away from home and cemented that fact in his last fight against Belfast’s Martin Lyndsay, when he won the Lonsdale belt before a pro Lyndsay charged crowd at the Kings Hall, a stones throw from the Irishman’s home.

After the bad start in this first defence of his belt, Simpson began to have his own successes in the next two rounds and was starting to counter Smith as he came in, using uppercuts inside and a few straight right hands down the pipe had Smith having to think about his attacks with more planning.
Simpson had his own success in the fight, landing here with a good jab – pic by chrisbevanphotography.co.uk
The fight was manifesting now into a copy of their first en-counter and non wanted to give ground, at times trading blow for blow and canceling out each other in an evenly matched fight. Both respectively tapped each other on the head at the end of a bruising 3rd round and a tough twelve rounder, with no ground given was on the cards.

Both were warned by the referee about hitting behind the head in the 4th which Smith started fast landing some hard right hooks that crashed off Simpson’s head. The champion’s counter punching though was working and every time Smith got his own shots off, he couldn’t get out again without being caught by the Scot.

In the 5th both landed some heavy telling blows which may have felled lesser men, but both dug deep and never let the other have the upper hand. Smith seemed to lose his way a little by the midway point and started to lean in with his shots, as Simpson used good ring craft to anticipate his challengers attacks.

Smith began to look tired and a little unsettled, his game plan I noted had come off course and he was forcing his work. Simpson began to dig the shots in with more frequency and a turnaround in the champions favor after his torrid start to the fight looked a possibility, a big right uppercut from Simpson in the 6th added weight to the case.

Simpson was now occupying centre ring and pushing Smith back with his punches. Smith though just kept coming and seemed willing to take the shots to try and land his own and grab hold of some momentum, but the cute Simpson was having the better success now and Smith’s punches seemed to be lacking the power to hurt the champion.

Simpson had already proved he could take Smith’s best shots in round one and shipped a big left hook from Smith in the 7th again showing his toughness. In the 8th it was Smith who now had to prove his chin could stand up to a big shot, when he was caught flush by Simpson. He did well to stay on his feet and shown what a fighting heart he really does have to fight back ending a bad round for him with huge right and a sickening body shot.

Smith, seemed to have attained a second wind in the last straight and adopted a more cunning plan in his approach, trying to counter Simpson now and having success. Simpson was still landing them head jolting uppercuts when they were inside but Smith landed his own left uppercut with interest in the 9th and traded blow for blow on the ropes, as they entered the trenches in this small hall classic.

With no man giving ground, fighting from start to finish of every round and showing guts bravery and the fighting heart worthy of being named the British champion, you couldn’t fit a cigarette paper between them and after completing there 24th round together punching to the to the last second, you couldn’t split em.

Both camps felt there charge had won and carried them on their shoulders around the ring at the final bell. Opinions outside the ring were mixed on who had won and a draw wouldn’t have been a surprise. You feel that if Smith and Simpson (22-8, 9KO’s) were to fight another hundred rounds we would still be trying to split them. The judges didn’t fair much better in there out-come either and when a majority verdict was announced, there was bound to be some controversy.

When the judges scores came through they reflected how tight the fight was whilst proving that people view fights in a different manner to others. Dave Parris scored it a draw 114-114 – whilst Howard Foster gave it to Smith 115-112, but it was Terry O’Connor’s scorecard that was 118-112 scoreline in favour of Smith (12-0, 6KO’s) that seemed a little generous given how close the fight was.

Both men were worthy winners and there didn’t deserve to be a loser, but boxing is a cruel game sometimes. Both deserve tremendous credit for the performances they gave and afterwards they were equally adament that they believed they had done enough to win. They are probly sick of the sound and sight of each other, let alone the damage each have inflicted on each other, but dont rule out a rematch somewhere down the line.

Undercard results

David Price
Local heavyweight prospect David Price, was on paper up against his toughest test to date in American Raphael Butler, but in reality it became one of his easiest victories to date knocking Butler out in round 1 in front of his Liverpool faithfull.

Butler a regular sparring partner for many top heavyweights including the Klitschko brothers, didn’t get out of the starting blocks when he was caught cold and flush with a smashing right cross from the 6`9″ Price, who fainted with his jab before administering the telling blow right on the button, spinning Butler’s head and dropping him to the canvas.

It looked to be a finisher and one that the American wouldn’t get up from, but to his credit he did and somehow steadied his legs enough to hold his body up. But Price hunted the finish and a cuffing left hook from the Liverpudlian was enough to send Butler down again face first and the referee waved the fight off at 1:47 of the opener.

Price 27, will now go into a fight with ‘Big’ John McDermott on June 11th in the same venue the Olympia Liverpool in an eliminator for the British heavyweight title currently held by Dereck Chisora.
Chisora will be defending the title first though against Tyson Fury with a date yet to be set, but it looks like that could be June also.

undercard results to follow.
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