Spectacular Knockout – Things looked grim for Liverpool cruiserweight Tony Bellew when he was floored with a massive left hand from knockout artist Ilunga Makabu in the very first round, but Bellew wouldn’t be denied. After an uneventful second round, Bellew found his range in the third stanza and knocked Makabu out cold as the crowd went delirious. The spectacular knockout was the highlight of a glorious night of boxing at ancient Goodison Park, home to Bellew’s beloved Everton FC soccer team. A slew of local fighters, including three of the four fighting Smith brothers, set the tone with victories in the undercard bouts, but the night belonged to Bellew for whom the third time was a charm.
This was not a good result for U.K. bookmakers who installed Makabu, a 28-year-old southpaw, as the favorite. A French-speaking Congolese, Makabu was knocked out in 29 seconds in his pro debut but had won 19 straight since, 18 by knockout. And when he floored Bellew in the opening frame, it appeared the oddsmakers had handicapped the bout correctly.
The 33-year-old Bellew, now 27-2-1 (17), had come up short in two previous world title fights as a light heavyweight, losing to Nathan Cleverly (MD 12) and Adonis Stevenson (TKO 6). This contest for the vacant WBC World cruiserweight title was Bellew’s eighth straight win since moving up in weight. And it was a sensational win. A flurry of punches capped by a lethal left hook left Makabu in a very bad way. It took a good minute to revive him.
In a foreseeable development, the three Smith brothers accomplished the hat trick. Super featherweight Stephen Smith won a minor WBC belt with a 7th round stoppage of Daniel Brizuela. Middleweight Paul Smith won a 6-round decision over Bartlomiej Grafka and Callum Smith, a super middleweight, stopped overmatched Cesar Hernan Reynoso in the sixth round.
Callum Smith (20-0, 15), the youngest, tallest, and heaviest of the Smith brothers, knocked his Argentine adversary to the canvas in the opening frame with a left hook and it seemed certain that he was going to register his 11th first round knockout. But the stumpy Reynoso survived the round and, despite suffering two more knockdowns, made it into the sixth frame before the referee decided that he had seen enough.
In other undercard bouts of note, Liverpool’s massive 6’8” heavyweight David Price, a Bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing games, rebounded from an ugly loss in Germany to Erkan Tepper with a second-round stoppage of Vaclav Pejsar from the Czech Republic, local fan favorite Sean “Masher” Dodd won a minor WBC lightweight strap with a 10-round unanimous decision over Italy’s Pasquale Di Silvio, and Liverpool super lightweight Tom Farrell improved to 9-0, turning back Kofi Yates in a lively 10-round brawl.