Chris Eubank Jr dramatically beat bitter rival Liam Smith with a sensational 10th-round stoppage in their grudge rematch, avenging his loss to the Liverpudlian here seven months ago.
Eubank, 33, sent Smith crashing to the canvas after one minute and 45 seconds of round 10 of a fight he largely dominated from start to finish with a stunning display of cool, calm and controlled boxing.
Eubank’s tactics were outstanding and this consummately professional, ruthlessly efficient and clinical display showed him at his very best.
Eubank had lost to Smith in a fourth-round stoppage here in January, so this was revenge at its sweetest and certainly no more than the Brighton man deserved.
Sadly, crowd trouble broke out on at least two separate occasions during the fight, with fans seen scrapping in the stands while in the ring Eubank was enjoying one of the finest hours of his career.
Chris Eubank Jr defeated Liam Smith in their highly-anticipated rematch in Manchester
The pair repeatedly clinched during the early rounds, with Eubank landing the better shots
Eubank Jnr was dominant throughout the highly-anticipated rematch in Manchester
Smith appeared to struggle with an injury to his left ankle but take nothing away from Eubank.
He was a worthy victor and surely not even Smith’s most ardent supporter would deny that.
A star-studded crowd included Derek Chisora and Joseph Parker, who fought out a titanic encounter here in December 2021 when the latter won to retain his WBO intercontinental heavyweight title.
Old adversaries Amir Khan and Kell Brook even conducted a joint interview at ringside prior to the main event in a show of mutual respect.
It was the first time they had crossed paths since they fought at this arena in February 2022, when former world champion Khan suffered a stoppage loss to Brook and subsequently retired.
Ex-world heavyweight champion David Haye and England footballers Jordan Pickford, John Stones and Conor Coady were also in the VIP seats.
When Eubank and Smith finally finally emerged for their ringwalks, it felt like they were entering a lion’s den.
As it was when Smith beat his bitter rival here in January, the Liverpudlian was backed by a large and vocal support from his home city.
Eubank had met a number of Manchester United players while they were on tour in Las Vegas this summer and he prepared for this fight there with new trainer Brian ‘BoMac’ McIntyre.
Marcus Rashford was among those to warn him not to lose to a Scouser again on Mancunian turf.
That made for a lighter build-up than when Smith and Eubank fought earlier this year, when Eubank questioned Smith’s fidelity and the Liverpudlian made innuendos about his rival’s sexuality.
With a VIP crowd in attendance, Eubank found a consistent home for his left uppercut
The shot put Smith on the canvas in the fourth round, but the Liverpudlian rose to his feet to fight on
Smith had appeared to struggle with an ankle injury for much of the fight on Saturday night
Despite the calmer preparations for this rematch, Eubank made a bold claim at Thursday’s press conference.
‘The performance will be exquisite, supernatural, a beautiful artistic display of savage boxing,’ he declared.
Eubank also mischievously told Smith ‘I’m definitely more intelligent than you, my friend’, prompting a fierce retort from his opponent..
Eubank was subjected to jeers as he made his way to the ring and even cocked both ears to the crowd to wind up his detractors.
Smith enjoyed a more favourable reception and a tight, tense and cautious opening round saw the Liverpool man land the first shot of the fight with a well-time uppercut.
Eubank began working his jab as both fighters began looking to hold, prompting the referee to briefly halt the action to speak to both fighters.
In the second round the fight began to move through the gears with less holding from both fighters and Eubank beginning to gain the upper hand, with Smith hitting the deck at the end of the round.
But it was a shove and not a knockdown, yet self-belief coursed through the veins of Eubank as the third round unfolded.
He used his jab superbly to put Smith on the back foot before connecting with a sweet uppercut and a punch to his rival’s body late in the round.
Eubank continued to dominate through the middle rounds, taking a wide lead on the scorecards
Smith was hesitant, and was unable to find success against his rejuvenated opponent
That Eubank was on top was undeniable – a stark contrast to their previous bout in January – and he continued to gain momentum.
In the fourth round, Eubank’s energy and conviction in his punching saw him knock Smith to the ground, the Liverpudlian losing his gumshield in the process.
It became a battering for Smith as the fifth round began as he took some serious, sustained punishment, Eubank unleashing a flurry of endless blows with his rival well and truly on the ropes.
Eubank at this point appeared set to sensationally finish Smith off but the older man somehow steadied himself when he could easily have buckled.
There was also a spot of crowd trouble in the stands shortly before the sixth round began, which saw Smith at least begin to stem the tide and stand his ground.
Credit to the Liverpool man, of course.
The pace of the fight began to tell on both fighters but Eubank cleverly kept working his jab in the seventh round.
Smith appeared to have injured his left ankle, hampering his movement, and Eubank ended the round strongly, landing more quick punches before the pair exchanged words as the round closed.
The onslaught continued into the championship rounds, with Eubank peppering Smith against the Ropes
The referee had seen enough in the tenth round, and stopped the fight shortly after Smith had been dropped for a second time
Eubank always appeared more and violence flared in the stands again at the end of the eighth round, a round when Smith again managed to keep his opponent at bay as the Brighton man kept his jab ticking over nicely.
In the ninth round, Eubank continued to look in little trouble with Smith, surely by now so far behind on points, needing a knockout to secure the win.
The 10th round saw Eubank again largely dominant, a fast and furious flurry of punches forcing the Liverpool man to the ground and leaving him with a bloodied face above his right eye.
Moments later, the fight was stopped as Eubank sent Smith crashing to the canvas, completing a staggering turnaround in fortunes for both men from their previous meeting.