Liam Williams loses to Liam Smith in controversial circumstances as referee misses crucial head clash

Liam Williams loses to Liam Smith in controversial circumstances as referee misses crucial head clash

By Dewi Powell: Last night, Clydach Vale’s Liam Williams (16-1-1, 11KO) was defeated by Liverpool’s Liam Smith (25-1-1, 14KO) in controversial circumstances.

Trainer and manager Gary Lockett was forced to pull the 24-year-old Welshman out before the start of the 10th round after he suffered a horrendous eye injury following a flush head clash.

Despite having a perfect side-on position, referee Terry O’Connor somehow missed the incident and ignored Lockett’s complaints that the injury clearly wasn’t caused by a legal blow.

If the official had spotted the head clash, the rules dictate that it would’ve gone to the scorecards. All three ringside judges had Williams ahead after nine rounds, though their margins of just one point does a disservice to the underdog, who deserved to be leading by a wider margin.

The WBO rules, which weren’t followed, state: “If an accidental foul causes an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the bout immediately after four rounds have occurred, the bout will result in a TECHNICAL DECISION awarded to the boxer who is ahead on the score cards at the time the bout is stopped.”

Williams, who missed out on the WBO Interim world title, suffered a severe double laceration to his right eyelid and was swiftly transferred to the hospital for immediate plastic surgery on the gruesome injury.

Smith’s intentions will be debated but until the fight changing head clash; it was turning in to a breakout performance from Williams, whose profile has been drastically raised.

After a minute of mirroring each other’s stance, they soon settled down to action early in the opening round. Williams’ sharper shooting was able to find gaps in Smith’s high guard, most notably with a basic slip-right hand move. Smith followed behind his typical compact shell in the initial exchanges, affording a composed Williams the liberty to pick his moments to go on the attack in the second stanza.

The third round saw Williams make his first major mark, pivoting inside Smith to uncork a thumper jab of his own. It opened a bad cut over Smith’s right eye that clearly impaired his vision. Keen to respond, Smith’s eagerness was then used against him, walking on to several flush counters before the session ended.

Smith attempted to stay close to Williams in the fourth, possibly due to his lack of visibility as blood ran in to the legitimately injured eye. Williams was able to circle the outskirts of the ring using mainly the jab and remained a step ahead of the action coming towards him.

By the fifth, it was apparent that the right hand of Williams, which was badly injured and ruled him out of 2015, was rarely being used. Still, his obvious intent was enough to put Smith in retreat in the sixth, a tactic the aggressive Scouser rarely employs.

With Williams in pursuit, he was able score with a clean uppercut to lift Smith’s head up – the standout shot of the session. In response, Smith enjoyed his best rally yet, landing effective body shots at the close of the halfway mark – that sort of success, albeit brief, had been hard to come by.

Despite the non-stop action, Joe Gallagher was vocal in the corner, complaining of Williams’ smothering tactics from Smith’s corner. Soon after, referee Terry O’Connor was on cue to break the action up and issue a stern warning to Williams.

The doctor was called to inspect Smith’s worsening injury shortly afterwards in the seventh round, which saw blood consistently leaking from his wound and being spread across his face.

Smith’s activity increased in the eighth and ninth sessions in an effort to outwork Williams but it was the underdog who produced the more accurate, eye-catching quality – a feature of the fight that wasn’t often disrupted until the fateful head clash. Smith followed with his best attacks as a dazed Williams tried to compose himself with only one fully functioning eye.

The show at the Manchester Arena kicked off BT Sport’s new partnership with BoxNation, providing the specialist outlet with a much-needed platform to reach a wider audience and rival their competitors.

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has held the full WBO world title since September after dropping Smith three times and stopping him in nine rounds at Texas’ AT&T Stadium in front of 50,000 fans. The Mexican star will meet countryman Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr in May at a catchweight of 164lbs and isn’t expected to return to the 154lbs limit, which would leave the belt vacant.

The injustice at the Manchester Arena follows a week of interesting talking points. ‘Beefy’ skipped Wednesday’s open workout and after heavily criticising Williams’ training camp, he then came in at 1lb 15oz over the super-welterweight limit at Friday’s weigh-in.

The former belt holder was given the option of attempting to lose the excess in an allocated time slot of two hours but didn’t attend the second weigh-in. Smith later claimed that he was wrongly informed, believing that only one hour was allotted.

Therefore, Smith was ineligible to win the vacant title and had to forfeit a percentage of his purse to Williams, who was comfortably under the limit at a comparative 152lbs.

While no definitive path forward will be made for either boxer until the dust settles, the public will call on Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren to make a rematch. It’s unclear whether they will retain their rankings with the WBO and if the still vacant Interim title can be fought for again.

Image by Frank Warren.

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