Fighter Of The Month (January 2023) – Liam Smith
Smith was mocked and looked at as a lowly underdog taking on Chris Eubank Jr., despite throwing nearly twice as many punches as him in recent marquee fights, with Smith at roughly 720 punches thrown and Eubank Jr a mere 380 against Liam Williams in his last fight over 12-rounds.
Smith a 3-to-1 underdog outclassed Eubank Jr., who simply looked lost, and though the weight cut of the Conor Benn fight might have played a role, it also looked like Eubank Jr.’s flawed defense didn’t help.
The result will go down in British boxing folklore as it was the end of the Eubank Jr mythos, as Liam Smith used pressure fighting he might have learned from his losses to Canelo Alvarez and Jaime Munguia against a famous, but still rather green pro boxer in Chris Eubank Jr. Serving as a formality in some eyes prior to Eubank Jr. getting a big fight against Conor Benn, or Gennadiy Golovkin, everything was ruined when Liam Smith stopped Eubank Jr in the fourth round.
The knockout which looked neurological with the way Eubank Jr.’s legs reacted, gave me flashbacks to when Fonfara stopped Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. That fight forever changed and damaged Chavez Jr., and I doubt we ever see the same confident Eubank Jr. after this.
“You have to give [Liam Smith] credit, because he has had a second, third, I think this is his third run [at the top of the division],” said NYFights.com, editor-in-chief Abraham Gonzalez on Lukie’s podcast. “[Smith]…gets his opportunity goes away then comes back, gets another opportunity then comes back, and now he is back on, being hot again. His knockout win over [Chris Eubank Jr] will now get him even more money in the rematch, or a potential fight against a triple G, or someone else.”
“The reason Liam stands out so much is because of the way he dominated Eubank Jr, knocked him out, as it was basically a wipeout,” said senior writer of ITRBoxing.com, Dakota McCormick. “At the end of the day, Liam Smith proved himself to be a level above and a viable contender.”
Despite two marquee losses at 154 lbs., Smith has been a world title trajectory and refused to become a gatekeeper as he beat Anthony Fowler, and Jessie Vargas recently. His lone loss in recent memory was when he went to Russia fighting Magomed Kurbanov, a fight he lost, but I thought he won.
Smith lived up to his pedigree and was the most outstanding fighter of the month as he left the biggest salvo in the sport so far. Stopping a celebrity and British boxing icon, in Chris Eubank Jr., is something of legend.
Though it is important to know, some contributors to ITRBoxing didn’t want to award this to Smith, as they felt this is his Apex Mountain (a reason to give it to him), but that the award would age poorly, as Roiman Villa would probably have a stronger career for the next three-to-five-years.
I fought hard for Smith as fair is fair. Smith had the biggest moment, he deserves this award.
Roiman Villa – A come from behind victory over a top-ten ranked welterweight in Rashidi Ellis, when the most telling blow landed was his final knockdown of Ellis which landed at the end of the fight.
David Stevens – The owner of the most iconic knockout of the month in the best fight of the month. Stevens didn’t impact the world as much, but stamped as name as someone we will follow for the rest of the year with his dramatic, movie-like performance.
Anthony Yarde – Despite losing, I have never seen a fighter gain so much in a loss. Yarde had a strong fanbase leading into the fight, and in a bout I saw him being outclassed in, Yarde fought well, and showed he is a world-class fighter. Even in a loss, Yarde deserves mention, as despite Beterbiev winning the fight, I think most will remember Yarde overachieving in the fight as the lasting image of this fight.