British junior featherweight ace Stephen Smith turned back a stubborn effort from Argentinian contender Mauricio Javier Munoz with an eighth-round corner retirement in a scheduled 12-round attraction in Leeds, England tonight.
Smith, a former two weight British champion, controlled most of the contest with sharper work on the outside and superior strength on the inside but, for the first six rounds, Munoz was in his face and pitching with ambition. The end came following Smith’s best session, during which he delivered a furious assault to body and head.
The action was fast paced from the start as Smith, who weighed in at 130 pounds, went through the full repertoire in the opening rounds. Munoz, a former two time world title challenger, took several accurate shots but fired back with ominous counters and the home fighter was forced to use his feet to evade the incoming.
Upon realizing that Munoz could be around for some time, Smith changed tactics in Round 3 and began boxing more economically behind the jab. He set up some nice right hands and continued to work the body, as Munoz struggled to land with crude swings which cut holes through the air.
As the mid-rounds approached both men began trading on the inside and although Smith became more available, the man known as “Swifty” was always a step ahead. A toll was being extracted from the visitor and Smith, sensing weakness, put more spite into his shots, particularly around the mid-section, and the corner retirement merely delayed the inevitable.
Smith (19-1, 12 knockouts) is one of four boxing brothers from Liverpool, who have become an institution in the UK. The others are named Paul, Liam and Callum. So far the quartet has annexed five British titles and two Commonwealth straps and the youngest of the group, Callum, is unanimously touted as the most exciting prospect in the country.
Munoz falls to 28-5 (13 knockouts) but, at 28 years old, he has time to regroup. Despite the Argentinian requiring two attempts to make 130 pounds, he appeared so much smaller and was bullied around the ring for large portions of the contest. Expect Munoz to drop back down to the featherweight limit if he is to continue to take his career seriously.
The WBC has Stephen Smith rated within their top ten and Matchroom will seek to move him towards a world title shot in the near future. The affable boxer puncher has openly said that he would travel to Japan to face titleholder Takashi Miura. Whether that happens next or not is open to question.
Smith’s only defeat came in Sept. 2011 when Welshman Lee Selby halted him in eight rounds. He is unbeaten in seven straight bouts, with five knockouts, since that time.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing