There have been quicker strikes in Liverpool but even Ian Rush would have done well to score as rapidly as did Callum Smith here on Saturday night, as he felled his fellow Scouser Rocky Fielding in just 165 seconds to win the vacant British super-middleweight belt and move within some quality haggling of a world title shot.
It had been touted as a contender for the fight of the year, but so dynamic and precise was the winner after a very short sounding-out session, it could be judged only on its sheer ferocity.
A fight some thought premature for their mutual benefit in the wider boxing landscape, and staged with pleasing lack of acrimony, was over in a blizzard of blows, the vast majority launched by Smith, inside one of the most exciting rounds British boxing has seen in years.
If he fights like that against the WBC champion, Badou Jack – and he has that governing body’s No1 contender status – Smith will join his brother Liam as a world champion, as well as his brothers Paul and Stephen as British titleholders. The Smith boys have fighting genes like few other families.
Fielding, the bearded Blue, and Smith, the clean-shaven Red, brought their own football faithful to the party, roughly split down the middle among the 10,500 customers, and they provided a caterwauling coda to proceedings while they lasted.
Fielding went over inside 30 seconds from a sickening right and by a sharp left to the temple. He retreated to the ropes and covered up, where he absorbed further heavy shelling, emerging from behind his guard briefly to offer brave, doomed resistance.
For a moment, it seemed he might weather the barrage but Smith caught him again for a second count, then dumped him in the ropes, his ribs bruised and his ego similarly suffering.
They embraced and cheek-kissed, as we knew they would, and any rivalry outside the ropes among the lively crowd was quelled instantly. Fielding will come again but his ambitions must be rowed back a little.
In a domestic division crammed with quality, Smith stands tall. Jamie Cox, who won inside a round in Dublin – his third straight knockout in the opening session – might think otherwise but it is the Liverpudlian who is best placed and on the rise.
Two British lightweights who ought to tangle down the road won contrasting bouts on the undercard. Ricky Burns once said his ambition was to have 100 fights but the 32-year-old Scot might regard his 45th contest as among his most frustrating.
Taller, smarter and carrying more tattoos than his awkward opponent Josh King, the former world champion brought an ugly contest to a conclusion in the 11th round with a peach of a left under the ribs to win the vacant WBO Intercontinental title, a belt good for holding up trousers, probably.
Earlier the unbeaten Scott Cardle, his left eye cut in the fourth, the bridge of his nose carved in the fifth and blood leaking from the top of his head from the sixth, needed all his punch-slipping skills to handle the marauding Sean “Masher” Dodd before coming from behind to stop him in the 12th and keep his British lightweight title.
It was tough on Dodd, whose Birkenhead supporters gave the referee Terry O’Connor the benefit of their full-throated disapproval when he waved it over after their man staggered backwards into the ropes a minute or so from safety, exhausted but leading on two of the three scorecards.
“I’ve been tested before in the pros but I have never been tested like this,” Cardle said. “I really had to grit my teeth at times. I was behind in every round so the only way was to knock him out. He is a warrior and he really dug deep. I will give him a rematch; he deserves it.”
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