Sheffield’s Dalton Smith posted the performance of his career by humbling the experienced Californian Jose Zepeda with a fifth-round body shot finish in Sheffield.

Smith took the veteran’s breath away with a right deep into the pit of his stomach that meant Zepeda dropped to the floor in sections for the full count.

The impressive Smith, British and Commonwealth super lightweight champion, is 16-0 (12 KOs).

“A lot of people thought this fight was too soon for me and I’ve had a couple of dreams about getting knocked out tonight, but that’s what made me train harder and I showed where I belong tonight,” said an ecstatic Smith having thrilled his fans in the main event on DAZN at the Sheffield Arena.

Smith seemed the bigger man, but Zepeda was looking to land his long southpaw left hand and the visitor was trying to let his fists go and punch in combination, forcing Smith to cover up near the end of the opening round.

The Sheffield star tried to impose himself to open the second round, attempting to utilize his right hand against the left hander, but Zepeda was fast, accurate, poised and relaxed. A sharp Smith one-two found the mark near the end of the second.

The Englishman was counterpunching in the third and Zepeda was suddenly struggling to find his range with his long left; Smith was circling to his own left to negate the threat. Smith also had success when he led with his right and followed with the left and while he could not afford to switch off, Smith was seemingly more comfortable as the fight wore on.

Zepeda seemed increasingly one-dimensional and in the fifth a short right seemed to stun Zepeda, and seconds later the Californian was frozen by a body shot.

The reaction was delayed. A right hand landed deep into Zepeda’s gut and he slowly slumped, dropping on to all fours. It was a wonderful, crunching shot into the pit of his belly.

Smith wheeled away and celebrated, leaping into the corner and saluting his fans.

The official time of Victor Loughlin’s stoppage was 1:25 of the fifth.

Zepeda, a 34-year-old three-time title challenger, had lost two of his past three, having been stopped in 11 by Regis Prograis and outpointed by Richardson Hitchins, but he was seen as Smith’s stepping-stone into world level.

Zepeda is now 37-5 (28 KOs), and Smith, who is trained by his father Grant and promoted by Eddie Hearn, said he had eyes for European champion Adam Azim.

“I don’t call many names out, but Adam Azim, where you at?" he said. "Listen, Eddie does all my talking. Before the fight I had to keep focus but there’s one reason Adam hasn’t vacated that title; it’s because he thought I was going to lose tonight. But do you know what? I bet he vacates now.

“It takes two to tango, I’m here to fight. I’ve got respect for Adam, he’s a lovely kid, but the European title is something I want to get and he’s in the way of that. Look, if you want to wait a couple of years and develop, fine. But don’t hold on to the belt, vacate.”

Hearn had a simple message for Azim. “I dare you,” said the promoter.