Callum Smith lined up a world title shot at light-heavyweight as he knocked out Mathieu Bauderlique with a huge left hook in the fourth round of the WBC final eliminator on the Usyk-Joshua undercard in Jeddah.
It was an excellent return for Smith to the arena where he won the WBA super-middleweight title stopping George Groves in the final of the World Boxing Super Series.
With Artur Beterbiev, the WBC, WBO and IBF champion, out injured until 2023 and Anthony Yarde next in line to face him, Smith might have to wait until next summer to get his shot, with Eddie Hearn saying he would like to put it on at Anfield, the home ground of Liverpool.
“I was good enough to be No 1 and 168 and I have had two fights at 175 and they have both been showreel knockouts,” Smith said. “I believe I am getting better.”
It was a tear-up while it lasted, with Bauderlique happy to exchange with Smith. But the Liverpudlian’s power held sway as he knocked the Frenchman down twice in the fourth round.
There was a fierce stat as Bauderlique looked to put pressure on Smith, whipping over left hooks. A right hand seemed to knock the Frenchman off balance, but Bauderlique then landed with a good right that squared Smith up as the pair exchanged big shots.
Early in the second round, Smith backed Bauderlique into the ropes, but as they exchanged, the Frenchman landed well with a left hook. And the action continued to be fast and furious, Smith landing a good left hook and a right with Bauderlique backed into the ropes, but Bauderlique flying back with a two-fisted barrage.
The fast pace continued on the third, with Smith being the busier and switching the attack to the body when Bauderlique was backed into the ropes.
Early in the fourth round, though, with Smith backed into a corner, he uncorked a big left that landed on Bauderlique’s temple and sent him to the floor. He got up on unsteady legs and was quickly under heavy bombardment, as a left to the side of the head and then a big right, rocked him back on the ropes.
Bauderlique rode out the first onslaught, but then a left to the body, followed by a huge left saw Bauderlique’s legs collapse under him. Referee Hector Afu waved it off instantly at 1:53.
“A good night all round,” Smith said. “I was surprised how much he engaged me early on. He caught me a few times, Buddy (McGirt, his trainer) wasn’t too happy in the corner. Finally, I landed a body shot and the left hook came off it.
“It wasn’t the fight I expected but I am confident in my ability.
“I want a world title, that’s all I want. That put me one step closer. I just want to keep winning.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.