Stephen Smith snuffed out Gary Buckland with a grisly right uppercut on the Nathan Cleverly-Sergey Kovalev undercard in Cardiff. Smith, a rank outsider, lured his forward-pressing foe into a corner in round five before dipping his right shoulder like a centre forward moving on his marker and delivering a fight-ending hammer blow inside of Buckland’s left jab. Unconscious on impact, the British junior lightweight champion careered forward onto his face ala Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Marquez, and for a few troubling minutes he was left prostrate where he’d landed as Smith cut short his celebrations, sank to his knees and prayed. Thankfully, after being administered oxygen, Buckland regained his feet and left the ring under his own steam.
It was a stunning finish -- a knockout of the year candidate and one that beckoned “Swifty” in from the cold after a period left wandering the wilds following his own devastating kayo loss to Buckland’s stablemate, Lee Selby. Buckland (27-3, 9 KOs), had been aiming to secure a Lonsdale belt outright before moving onto the European stage, however, the local man needs to convalesce after suffering the sort of unspeakable setback that will merit an audit.
Smith (9st 4lb) began brightly and landed a right uppercut followed by a series of left jabs as Buckland attempted to push him around and establish his strength (the Welshman is a former lightweight, whereas Smith had moved up from the featherweight ranks). Buckland (9st 2lb 8oz) began to work himself up into a lather in round 2 while Smith used his legs and looked to counter from range. A hard right uppercut followed by a stinging left hook spurred Buckland on in the 3rd and as he found his groove it appeared that Smith might be outworked.
The Merseyside hitter scotched that notion in the 4th with a stiff right hand that clocked Buckland herding in. Reading the situation incorrectly, Smith (17-1, 10 KOs), cut loose on the champion while his corner, one that included brother Paul and trainer Joe Gallagher, hollered at him frantically in a bid to tip him off and settle him back down. Buckland, bleeding from his left eye and perhaps more hurt than he was letting on, trailled Smith around the ring -- a tack that would untimately lead to his undoing.
Smith, a British champion in his second division, will now face Dewsbury’s Gary Sykes.