Eyeing a European title, Smith KOs Zepeda in 5th

Boxing

Dalton Smith took a step closer to more prominent fights at the junior welterweight level by stopping Jose Zepeda with a crushing body shot in Round 5 on Saturday in Sheffield, England.

The English fighter produced a clinical finish with a right to the body in front of his home city fans at the Sheffield Arena. It was an impressive knockout win over a three-time world title challenger, the best moment of Smith’s career, and vaults him into a class of bona fide contenders at 140 pounds.

“A lot of people thought this fight was too soon for me, that made me train harder and I showed where I belong tonight,” Smith said. “I was hitting him with some clean shots, he walked on to an uppercut, and then I knew I could hurt him.”

For Zepeda, this defeat is a further blow to his hopes of fighting for a world title again. After three losses in world title fights and three defeats in his past four fights overall, Zepeda’s career is moving in the wrong direction.

Going the opposite way is Smith, who finished Zepeda by digging a right hand to the solar plexus. Smith is still a long way from challenging the junior welterweight elite of Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez, but he took a significant step toward world title contention with this win. First, Smith is targeting 22-year-old European champion Adam Azim (11-0, 8 KOs), also from England.

Smith said: “I don’t call many names out but Adim Azim, where are you at? I bet he vacates that title. I respect him but the European title is something I want.”

Smith (16-0, 12 KOs) had previously competed at domestic level, and in his last fight made a third defense of his British junior welterweight title.

Zepeda (37-5, 28 KOs), from La Puente, California, was the highest ranked opponent Smith has faced and the southpaw made a good start.

Zepeda, 34, landed a good left hand in the second while Smith struggled to impose himself. But Smith settled in in the third round and picked his shots well, planting two-punch combinations on Zepeda.

Smith, 27, boxed well in the fourth, working his jab and catching Zepeda with a right hook, and in the fifth he rocked Zepeda with a right uppercut before the finishing body shot.

Zepeda’s last trip to England ended miserably when he had to retire at the end of the second round after dislocating his shoulder in a world lightweight title fight against Terry Flanagan. He lasted longer against Smith, but the fight ended in agony for him again, getting counted out on his knees.

Smith is looking to become the next boxing world champion from Sheffield, following in the footsteps of the likes of Kell Brook, Naseem Hamed, Clinton Woods, Junior Witter and Johnny Nelson. There is still a long way to go, but Smith is looking the part and brings with him a big following.

Ryan defends welterweight title with stylish win

Sandy Ryan overwhelmed English rival Terri Harper in four rounds of a second defense of her WBO world welterweight title in Sheffield.

It was an outstanding performance by Ryan, her best yet, as she bullied two-weight world champion Harper from the opening bell until Harper’s corner pulled her out of the fight at the end of the fourth round.

Ryan (7-1-1, 3 KOs), 30, from Derby in England but now based in Las Vegas, was held to a split points draw against American Jessica McCaskill in world title unification fight in September, and has previously said she wants the rematch. But McCaskill (12-4-1, 5 KOs), 39, from Chicago, first defends her WBA belt against Lauren Price on May 11 and there are other options for Ryan.

“The WBC belt is vacant, Natasha Jonas, Chantelle Cameron, we can make the big fights in the female division happen,” Ryan said.

Harper, 27, from Doncaster, England, also drew her previous fight — to former undisputed world welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus in October — but she was never in this fight.

Ryan made an aggressive start, landing heavy punches and maintaining a high work rate. At the end of the second round, Ryan landed a chopping right and Harper already looked in danger.

In the third round, Ryan went on the attack late again, and Harper was forced to hang on. Later in the third, a right hook troubled Harper who took more punishment in the fourth round and Ryan finished the round with a right straight through the guard.

Three successive punches at the end of the fourth helped Harper’s corner decide to retire their fighter.

Harper has moved up and down weight classes to get fights. She has won junior lightweight and junior middleweight titles, and stepped down a division to face Ryan. But she never looked comfortable or strong enough to compete with Ryan, who was razor sharp.

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