Josh Kelly lived up to his word as he outclassed Troy Williamson to claim the British super-welterweight title in a long hankered-for fight in Newcastle.
The match between the North-East rivals looked a classic, but as hard as Williamson tried, he was completely dominated by the brilliant Kelly, who was just too quick of hand and foot.
From as early as the first round, Kelly had all the best moments, catching Williamson with flashy power shots and making the champion miss when he threw his own punches. He kept enough in the tank to comfortably see the 12 rounds out too.
It was an overwhelming unanimous decision and thoroughly deserved. Kieran McCann had it 118-110, Kevin Parker 119-109 and Ron Kearney 119-111. Williamson was tough and stood up to a lot of punishment, but here could be no real arguments.
“The performance felt that smooth I felt like saying to Adam (Booth, his trainer) ‘can you slap me out of this dream?’” Kelly said. “This British title means so much to me. Oh my God, the hard work has paid off.
“What tank problems? (The David Avanesyan fight) was weight problems. I feel like I could have done another five rounds.”
Once upon a time, Kelly and Williamson were team-mates on the GB Squad. Kelly was the one earmarked as a future star, though, after winning a European Games medal in 2015. He went to the Olympics the year after and was given the red-carpet treatment when he turned professional with Eddie Hearn. He beat ex world champion Carlos Molina in his sixth fight, boxed at Madison Square Garden in his tenth. But when he stepped up in class to fight David Avanesyan for the European title in February 2021, he was ground down and stopped. He has been on a rebuilding mission since.
Williamson went around the world with Great Britain, but it took him a long time to get his break as a professional, as he sensationally took the British title away from Ted Cheeseman. A first defense against Mason Cartwright proved tougher than expected as he had to get off the floor in the second round before winning, but he had plenty of believers heading into this and was the betting favorite.
In the second, Williamson tried roughing up Kelly close in, as he was warned for using his head and rabbit punching by referee Mark Lyson. He worked hard at cutting the ring off too, but while he had a better round, Kelly was landing the quicker shots and he jumped in from range.
Kelly, 28, had a good third as well, as he boxed off the backfoot and caught Williamson with shots as he came on to him, and walked Williamson into some heavy punches in the fourth round and, although Williamson finally got through with a heavy right near the end of the round.
A minute into the fifth round, Kelly landed a left-right combination that seemed to wobble Williamson’s leg. He piled in behind it, landing another good left as he forced him back to the ropes. Williamson held on before trying to box his way out of trouble, but Kelly looked a step ahead.
In the sixth, Williamson came swinging at Kelly, but Kelly avoided everything and then caught him again walking forward. Kelly was hardly missing.
The pattern continued in the seventh round and, while Williamson did have some success, when he fell short with a jab he was met with a crushing short left hook.. he finished the round showboating in the ropes, ducking and weaving while landing a big left and right.
Williamson put a lot of effort into the eighth round, but Kelly was still the one landing the better punches and even threw one from around his back in a clinch.
In the ninth round there were signs that Kelly was starting to feel the pace and Williamson still came forward unrelentingly. But then Kelly landed a lightning right hook and uppercut and as Williamson came forward to clinch, Kelly unloaded on him.
Again in the tenth round, Williamson chased after Kelly but was beaten to the punch. In the eleventh Kelly was cut high on his head, almost certainly by a clash of heads, but Williamson was just left frustrated as he repeatedly set himself to throw, only to be picked off.
Williamson, 31, went on the front foot from the opening bell, but the first meaningful shots were landed by Kelly, with a sharp uppercut and a left hook.
Another uppercut landed from Kelly and another left hook, then a body shot as Kelly piled into Williamson, who looked to hold. As Williamson tried to press forward again, Kelly landed a body shot, then a right over the top.
Williamson gave it his all in the last and probably had his best round, landing a good body shot and a solid right, although Kelly saw out the round aided by a bit of holding.
Lyndon Arthur produced an impressive finish as he stopped English light-heavyweight champion Joel McIntyre in the second round.
McIntyre prowled forward but was stood up by a left jab-straight right in the first. Midway through the second round, the same combination had a devastating effect as McIntyre’s legs turned to jelly.
McIntyre tried to swing his way out of trouble but missed wildly as Arthur landed two solid rights, then he winged in three big rights that landed flush. McIntyre sunk back into the ropes as Arthur landed three more punches as referee Ron Kearney stepped in at 1:46 of the second round.
“I knew he was a tough opponent but I knew he was levels above him and I showed some of that,” Arthur said. “I’ve got a big 2023 ahead of me and I am excited to see what it brings.”
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.