Paul Smith prevailed in the battle of the Liverpool Super-Middleweights on Friday with a split decision victory against Tony Quigley at the Echo Arena.
Scorecards of 116-112 and 116-113 were enough for the challenger to claim the British Super-Middleweight title, with the final scorecard 116-11 in favour of Quigley.
As the fight edged to its conclusion it looked like Quigley would retain the title but a late surge from Smith tipped the scorecards in his favour, and gave him the victory in the biggest night of his boxing career.
There is an intense rivalry between the two which boiled over at the weigh-in, but the new champion revealed his respect for his opponent after the fight.
Smith said: “He was as strong as an ox in there. I’ve got a lot of respect for Tony Quigley, he’s a good, strong, tough kid.
“I trained properly for this fight. I can’t get motivated for kids that I know I can beat. Kids where I’ve got a British title on the line then I’ll train and you’ll see the best of me. That wasn’t the best of me. I was awful in the middle rounds, I was thinking too much, but when I let the hands go I did OK.”
The fight started cautiously with both using their jab to maintain a distance but neither doing enough to gain a significant advantage. The second and third continued in much the same vein, neither fighter settling into a rhythm but with Quigley perhaps edging it with a strong right hand followed by a left which buckled the knees of Smith.
The fourth round was the ‘quiet before the storm’ as both fighters began to open up and trade in the fifth. Smith caught Quigley with good right hook early in round five before a Quigley uppercut brought the crowd to its feet. A clash of heads cut Smith over his right eye but not enough to impair his vision.
By round ten and with his cut beginning to prove troublesome, Smith began to turn the fight around with the aggressive body punching that helped him win a Commonwealth Games silver medal in 2002 and feature on American television series The Contender.
Pouring on the pressure both fighters went toe to toe in the centre of the ring with Smith catching the tiring champion with a punishing right hook before a low blow led to a short break. When the action resumed Smith dug in deep and caught Quigley with several hurtful punches before the end of the round.
In the final round the champion came out gasping for air and was immediately forced onto the back foot by an ever-advancing Smith. The difference in stamina was proving to be the only thing separating the two fighters and though it wasn’t Smith’s finest performance, the grit and determination that he showed in the closing moments was enough to snatch the title away.
Promoter Frank Warren announced at the end of the fight that there would be an immediate rematch between the pair, and despite it not living up to the enormous expectations it will surely be another highly anticipated domestic clash.
By Nick Kelly
YouTube: Smith v Quigley (part 1); Jamie Carragher keeps the two apart pre-fight(chrismart1983, Flickr)