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James DeGale stops Paul Smith in ninth round

Paul Smith and James DeGale
Londoner DeGale is now unbeaten in nine professional fights

By Nabil Hassan

James DeGale won the super-middleweight British title with an classy ninth-round stoppage of Paul Smith.

DeGale dominated from the opening bell in Liverpool with Howard Foster stopping the fight after a brutal onslaught from the London fighter.

Earlier Sheffield's Kell Brook defended his WBO intercontinental welterweight title with an impressive second-round stoppage of Ghanaian Philip Kotey.

European middleweight champion Matthew Macklin defeated Ruben Varon on points.

Nathan Cleverly won the WBO interim light-heavyweight championship earning a unanimous points decision against Frenchman Nadjib Mohammedi.

DeGale, 24, made the better start at the Echo Arena, dominating a lively first round which ended with the pair being separated by referee Foster.

The 2008 Olympic gold medallist in Beijing landed a solid fast left hand over the top which rocked Smith towards the end of the first round before also unleashing a couple of solid punches which found the target.

Smith soon found his feet as he came into the fight in the second but it was DeGale who landed the cleaner shots with his hand speed already causing the champion problems.

A right hand from Smith found the target while he later pinned DeGale up against the ropes with a decent two-punch combination in the third.

606: DEBATE

A clash of heads in the fourth opened up a deep cut above the right eye of Smith, who responded with a straight right through the defence of DeGale, who hit back with a flurry of punches.

DeGale peppered Smith's injured eye, and it was the challenger who was starting to take control of the fight with another clash of heads at the end of a thrilling round appearing to hurt the Liverpool boxer.

The pair continued to trade punches in the sixth, as DeGale was warned for a low blow, but it was the London boxer who was shading the fight landing the cleaner shots while also impressing in close.

Smith was hurt with a right hand uppercut at the start of the seventh while DeGale also showed his class with a series of combinations which pegged back the champion who also landed a left hook.

The rounds were running out for Smith who was clearly behind on points by this stage and the champion was wobbled with a three-shot volley as he struggled to peg back DeGale whose hand speed a ring craft was proving too much for the Liverpool man.

Smith started the ninth on the front foot but he was soon in trouble as DeGale unleashed a barrage of fierce punches that broke through the defence of the home fighter. A left hook rocked Smith again before a further flurry of punches saw the fight stopped.

"I was too good and always felt in control," DeGale said.

"After the first round I thought 'oh my God, this is easy. In the first round I said to him, 'fight me'. He'd talked so much about what he was going to do so I told him to fight me.

"People underestimate the strength of my punching power. I'm so chuffed, so happy."

Victory for unbeaten Brook was his 23rd since turning professional and enabled him to maintain his number one world ranking with the WBO.

Kell Brook
Kell Brook is now unbeaten in 23 fights

Brook had Kotey down at the end of the first with a straight right-short left and inflicted more punishment in the second before the referee stepped in.

The win means that the 24-year-old heads into 2011 on the verge of landing a world title shot with Brook now WBO champion Manny Pacquiao's mandatory challenger.

"I needed to make a statement tonight, and I feel I've done that," Brook reflected.

"I'll fight anybody and I'm ready to box for a world title now."

But while Brook's victory was straightforward, Macklin's was anything but.

The 28-year-old Birmingham fighter was matched from the first bell and never looked comfortable against his opponent from Madrid.

Macklin ended the fight with blood gushing from both eyes with Varon also ending the stronger.

But despite this, Macklin took a unanimous decision with the judges scoring the fight 116-111, 116-113 and 117-111.

"I made it hard for myself, he was better then people gave him credit for before the fight," he admitted.

"It wasn't a great performance, but I got the win and I'm still the European champion."

And the last fight of the night saw Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion Tony Bellew twice climb off the canvas to stop Ovill McKenzie in the eighth round.



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