Lee Selby refused to listen to anyone but himself — an intuitive resolve that allowed him to maltreat logic and tear the British and Commonwealth featherweight titles away from Stephen “Swifty” Smith in front of the Liverpudlian’s own people. Oddsmakers had scoffed at the Welshman’s chances when laying their lines, while the handful of writers who’d examined the contest prior to Saturday evening figured that Selby’s unorthodox fighting method might prove incommodious for a few rounds before Smith ground him into the canvas.
Selby didn’t even care to heed his own cornermen, who were on him like a flash after he ripped into Smith throughout the opening session – a most unlikely approach from a relative novice whose game has been founded on quick flicks, darts and clumsy-footed pirouettes. Instead, Selby moved into centre ring, held his feet and opted to lay into the local favourite while Smith, surprised but unruffled, clumped the visitor around the side of his head in the clinches in a bid to establish control while chastening his impertinence.
Serenely confident, Smith, too, did not concern himself with listening, in his case to the rudimentary boxing basics he’d been privy to since he was a nipper. Walking onto clean punches, he seemed determined to saunter through Selby’s shots as if he were whistling brazenly through a hail shower after having left his umbrella on the bus. Selby, swinging roundhouses with abandon in a manner more suited to a pub car park, began measuring the champion with an outstretched left before popping him with the right –- a handy yet amateurish tool which almost never works in a professional setting. Selby, though, obviously had little time for logic, rhyme nor reason.
Like a clown delivering custard pies, Selby (125 ½ lbs) would allow Smith (125 lbs) to kiss the end of his measuring arm before delivering punchlines with his right. And while “Swifty” always appeared the stronger man, uncertainty began to creep in as to who would end up enjoying the last laugh. As they brawled and wrestled into the bout’s second quarter, Smith would look to punch and then smother whereas Selby concentrated on flailing home the more eye-catching hits.
And then, in round 8, and with Smith beginning to unravel, Selby uncorked a scything left hook-cum-uppercut which snipped the champion’s strings and brought an instant end to proceedings. As Smith listed to his right before flopping into unconsciousness on his back, Selby loomed over him, leering at the deposed champion. It was an ignorant gesture which helped cement an altogether unruly performance — which is precisely the manner one should set about a task when the rules of reason offer little chance of success. The finish was timed at 2:04.
Over in Belfast, the Tyson Fury roadshow continued in earnest, as a rollicking good punch-up unfolded between the popular traveller and imported Ohio bruiser, Nicolai Firtha. Sadly, the majority of television viewers were precluded from following the brawl in real time, as Channel Five’s feed went down in round 2, leaving disgruntled armchair fans fiddling with their remotes for the lion’s share of the contest.
After dominating the first two rounds from behind his jab, Fury (253 lbs.) came perilously close to defeat in round 3, as Firtha (247 ¾ lbs) detonated a booming right hook against the home favourite’s left temple. Fury wobbled backwards into the ropes and his right knee lurched momentarily, before the big man gathered himself sufficiently to set about Firtha for the remainder of the bout. A swinging right hand brought referee John Keane’s intervention at 2:19 of the 5th and whilst that looked a tad premature, things appeared to be heading in only one direction.
Although Fury entertained once again, his poor physical condition and lack of technical development would be a major concern were he to be campaigning anywhere other than at heavyweight.