Years of rivalry and a river of bad blood carried Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Williams into this grudge match in Cardiff, but in the event, but favor flowed almost entirely one way once the fight got started.
Eubank managed to knock Williams down an astonishing four times during the fight; a statistic made all the more remarkable given that Williams is notoriously gritty and not a fighter given to being put down easily.
Even more surprisingly, three of the knockdowns came in the first four rounds, with Williams still fresh and the volume of traded blows a mere fraction of what they would be by the time the final bell sounded.
The secret was Eubank’s left hand. A stiff jab – almost a lead cross – put Williams down in the first round, dropping him when he came surging forwards looking to put pressure on. A left hook delivered the same service in the same circumstances a round later.
Williams was immediately back to his feet both times and immediately back into the fray, but Eubank Jr was in total control of the pace and distance of the fight.
Moving backward and allowing Williams to hold the center, Eubank left his rival’s punches falling short again and again. When Williams would press forward to close the distance, Eubank would have counters waiting for him.
Tensions were high between the pair throughout; there was a lot of jostling and butting in the clinches, and at the end of the third, Eubank landed a hard right hand after the bell had gone, raising those tensions still further.
Williams had more success in the third round and carried that momentum into the fourth, only to take yet another stiff left that scored a knockdown. Despite this setback, he came on strong in the following rounds and seized the advantage at times as Eubank seemed to tire.
For the next five rounds, Williams had his best successes of the fight, with Eubank on the back foot and throwing less than he had in the preceding rounds. Going to the body paid dividends for Williams repeatedly, and Eubank looked to have felt more than one of those thudding body blows.
No dismay from Eubank, though; he showboated and gurned his way around the ring, mocking Williams and taunting him while staying frustratingly out of reach. As one spirited exchange ended round six, Eubank ended with a bit of pat on the behind for Williams, as if congratulating the efforts of a schoolboy footballer.
With Eubank playing defensive in this middle portion of the fight, Williams looked for the knockdowns he needed. They were nowhere to be found, though; Eubank had a superb uppercut counter waiting for Williams’ more enthusiastic forward ventures, though he did get caught himself with some solid 1-2 and suitable hand efforts.
His successes came undone in the eleventh round, though, as he took another blow – this time a right hand – which put him down for a count. With the fight now entirely out of Williams’ reach unless he scored a clean knockout, Eubank spent the final round playing and showboating, giving Williams no chance of landing anything solid.
The result was inevitable: a unanimous decision win for Eubank on every card.
“I am happy with the performance; I wanted to teach that man a lesson; he said some quite menacing things to me in the lead-up to this fight,” Eubank said.
“I wanted to punish him – I didn’t want to knock him out in one round; I wanted to punish him.
“Headbutts, headlocks… I am surprised he didn’t get disqualified. But I took it like a man, and I punished him like I said I would. It was a fun night. I think I showed some of my critics a different side to me.
“There was no danger; if I had stepped on the gas at any point in the fight, he would have been gone. There are levels to this game. Don’t be a big mouth against guys you can get hurt against.”
Chris Eubank Jr def Liam Williams, Unanimous Decision, R12 (116-109, 116-108, 117-109)
10 x 2 Mins WBC/WBA/IBF World Middleweight Titles
CLARESSA SHIELDS v EMA KOZIN
Claressa Shields retained her collection of world titles and claims to ‘GWOAT’ status when she outclassed challenger Ema Kozin over ten rounds, coming very close to stopping the fight at times.
Machine-gunning flurries of straights and then hitting the body with hooks, Shields was punishing Kozin through the fight. Kozin was hurt several times but hung in there, despite Shields increasingly risking in search of the stoppage.
“I thought there were plenty of moments where the referee should have stopped it,” Shields said. “I give myself an A-. The only thing I didn’t do was get the damn knockout!
“She took six, seven, eight shots without responding. I thought her corner might have stopped it.”
After the bout concluded, Shields’ arch-rival Savannah Marshall was on hand to offer her some robust criticism. “If you perform like that against me, I’ll wipe the floor with you,” she told her American antagonist.
Shields responded with vitriol, resulting in an exchange of words between ringside and live on Sky Sports.
If Marshall successfully defends her WBO title later this year, the stage will be set for the two to face off at last.
Marshall is the only fighter in the world to hold a win over Shields from their amateur days, and a rematch in the professional ranks would be perhaps the biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing.
Claressa Shields def. Ema Kozin, Unanimous Decision (100-90, 100-90, and 100-90)
Top prospect Caroline Dubois entered the professional ranks in style, dominating valiant journeywoman Vaida Masiokaite over six rounds to secure the first win of what promises to be a standout professional career.
“As debuts go, what a statement. She hasn’t boxed since the Olympics, which was a new experience. There were nerves. She handled it amazingly,” said her trainer Shane McGuigan, son of all-time great Barry McGuigan.
8 x 3 Mins Welterweight Contest
CHRIS JENKINS WPTS8 (58-56) v JULIUS INDONGO
The evening’s first Welshman to enter the ring, local man Jenkins got raucous support from the partisan crowd when he entered the ring. He rewarded them with a challenging and gritty display, out-working Indongo despite suffering a suspected broken hand at some point during the fight.
6 x 3 Mins Heavyweight Contest
SHANE GILL WPTS6 (58-56) STEVE ROBINSON
In a tough six-rounder, Steve ‘USSR’ Robinson suffered a shock loss to Shane Gill. Despite controlling the bout early on, Gill came on strong in the mid-rounds and rocked Robinson with some heavy shots.
8 x 3 Mins Heavyweight Contest
OTTO WALLIN WPTS8 (79-74) KAMIL SOKOLOWSKI
Swedish heavyweight contender Otto Wallin, featuring on the show via Salita Promotions, defeated Poland’s tough Kamil Sokolowski on points on his British debut. Nearly upsetting Tyson Fury in September 2019, Wallin is looking to get into the World heavyweight title scene.
10 x 3 Mins English Welterweight Championship
SAMUEL ANTWI WPTS10 (96-95, 96-94 97 94) CONAH WALKER
In an early contender for domestic fight of the year, Samuel Antwi and Conah Walker went toe-to-toe in a brutal and riveting encounter for the English Welterweight title. The pair exchanged hard blows for ten rounds, with the action going back and forth through the fight. In the end, Antwi retained his English title by decision with close scores.
8 x 3 Mins Super-Lightweight Contest
HARLEM EUBANK WRTD5 VIOREL SIMION
The Eubank family got off to a winning start with Chris’ cousin Harlem defeating Viorel Simion by fifth round retirement. Eubank looked good from the start moving well and throwing some eye-catching combinations. In the fifth, Eubank upped the pace and landed some hurtful body shots to Simion, forcing his corner to withdraw him.