Liam Smith will hope the path to another world title shot has become slightly clearer after winning another fringe belt.
The former WBO super-welterweight world champion knocked out local rival Anthony Fowler on Saturday night, exclusively live on DAZN.
Smith, 33, took on the former Commonwealth Games gold medallist in a battle for Scouse super-welterweight supremacy at the M&S Bank Arena on Merseyside.
And he looked a class above Fowler, who slipped to 15-2 (12 KOs) in defeat, as he dropped the 30-year-old twice en-route to a finish after two minutes and four seconds of the eighth round.
‘Beefy’ was cut in the first round, but did not panic and just broke Fowler down during what was a dominant display that will likely see him take on Jessie Vargas next.
Fowler made a great start, landing a right that cut Smith around the left eye and then tagging Smith with a right that made the former global ruler smile in appreciation.
But Smith came back well in the second round, closing the gap between then and forcing Fowler backwards.
Fowler, 30, came back well again in the third round, as he seemed to hurt Smith with two big rights then forced Smith into his shell, although Smith came back with two rights of his own just before the bell.
Again, Smith came back in the fourth round, as he landed a right and followed it up with a combination that left Fowler cut over his left eye.
Midway through the fifth round, Fowler, nicknamed ‘The Machine’, came forward swinging but was nailed by a big right that dropped him to the seat of his shorts and left him looking badly hurt.
Smith kept the pressure on, stalking Fowler and rocking him again with right and left hooks, but the man who was eventually beaten came back in the following round and had some success.
Fowler was trying to land big hooks around Smith’s guard, but Smith was dominant inside. In the eighth round, he stepped on the pace again and Fowler was looking tired. In the centre of the ring, Smith landed a big right, then followed it up with a left to the body, which opened the way to a left to the side of the head that dropped Fowler on his back.
“It was a great fight, I always knew it would be competitive, certainly for the first six,” Smith said. “I started very slow, but for start to finish, we did a very good job. I said all along that I have been in with bigger punchers and I have a good enough chin at this level.”