In front of a loud and sizeable home crowd former light heavyweight contender Tony Bellew got his cruiserweight campaign off and running against Valery Brudov, at the Echo Arena, Liverpool, though not without incident.
Bellew was looking to reinvent himself following an unsuccessful light heavyweight title challenge last November against Adonis Stevenson.
Early on Bellew used his edge in speed to pick off Brudov, dropping the former two-time world title challenger flat on his back with a well placed right hand that pierced the Russian’s guard.
To his credit Brudov gathered himself and was continued to press Bellew enjoying some success of his own before Bellew got his second knock down of the fight in the sixth round, again Brudov got to his feet.
Incredibly in the seventh round Brudov found a huge right hook that visibly rocked Bellew, it looked as though the teak tough Russian was on the verge of a sensational come-from-behind knockout, only to inexplicably land a low blow that allowed Bellew to buy enough time to recover.
From then on Bellew elected to box on the back foot, staying away from the dangerous Brudov before finally landing a monstrous left that put Brudov flat on his back. Though he attempted to rise he fell back to the canvas prompting the referee to call a halt to proceedings at 2.24 of the final frame.
With the win Bellew (21-2-1, 13 knockouts) won vacant WBO International cruiserweight crown, while Brudov drops to 41-5, 25 KOs.
“I'm pretty happy, it's a six out of ten for me, but the win is the main thing,” said Bellew. “I can't thank the fans enough for the great support.
“I switched off in the seventh and the bruises on my face show I've been in a fight. I knew he was a dangerous guy but I have power at this weight and I haven’t seen people knock him off his feet. But he got back up and that's what's going to happen at cruiserweight.
“I have a lot more work rate in me, I was very measured in there at times, I went into the later rounds and I was wondering if I was blowing a bit, but I've come into the fight on the back of a loss and a hard loss, and I think I have answered questions that I was asking of myself. I got him out late and that shows I can carry my power late.
“I've done the domestic scene and I’m in the sport to be World champion. I've been at the top in Britain, Europe and the Commonwealth; it's time to be number one in the World.”
In chief support Rocky Fielding outpointed durable Charles Adamu, with all three judges in agreement 120-108.
The Ghanaian came in with a reputation as being tough having gone the distance admittedly ten years ago with Carl Froch. More recently he was stopped in six by George Groves.
However at the weigh in Fielding missed the super middleweight limit coming in at 174.75. The fight was no longer for Fielding’s commonwealth title.
Fielding (18-0, 10 knockouts) boxed well keeping Adamu (21-6, 15 knockouts) honest, though in truth the contest lacked any spark. Fielding didn’t seem to have another gear to go into to put Adamu under any real pressure while Adamu at 36 was past his prime.
Though Fielding dropped Adamu in the seventh round with a left hook, Adamu’s greater experience and know how allowed him to smother and spoil the local favourites work.
Down the stretch Fielding boxed and won without incident to set up a possible local grudge match with fellow Liverpudlian Paul Smith who was in attendance watching from ringside.
It was a good week for welterweight Kell Brook. Earlier last week he got confirmation that he would meet the Shawn Porter-Paulie Malignaggi winner no later than July 19.
On Saturday night he stayed busy gaining valuable rounds against teak tough Alvaro Robles. Brook at times landed at will and looked as though he could force the stopped but full credit to the Mexican who always returned fire, landing several of his own shots.
While Brook was in a different class he was forced to work for the win, which finally came at 1.35 of the eighth round following a barrage of blows Robles corner saved their man by throwing the towel in.
Kevin Mitchell stayed on course for a muted IBF lightweight title shot with a second round stoppage against overmatched Mikheil Avakvan.
The two-time world title challenger from London dropped Avakvan twice in the opening round before a third knock down in the second round prompted referee Steve Gray to halt proceedings.
Mitchell (37-2, 27 knockouts) won his fourth consecutive bout. Currently Matchroom are in talks with IBF champion Miguel Vazquez, for a possible undercard bout for the Froch-Groves II undercard.
Former 2005 world championship bronze medallist Neil Perkins scored the biggest win of his pro career with an eight round decision over Erick Ochieng in a light middleweight contest.
Perkins boxed well, dropping Ochieng early on, using his greater skills to win a hard fought contest 78-76 in a good trade fight.
The win saw Perkins advance to 6-0 with 1 knockout while Ochieng dips to 14-4 with 4 knockouts.
At late notice John Ryder was added to the undercard winning a six round decision over always tough George Kandelaki (11-5-1, 2 knockouts) by the single score of 60-53. The win kept Ryder (16-1, 9 knockouts) on track ahead of his British middleweight title eliminator on April 5.