Despite being a round up on all three ringside judges’ scorecards, Welshman Liam Williams was withdrawn from his corner at the start of the 10th round against Mancunian Liam Smith at the Manchester Arena on April 8, 2017.
Williams surprised many when he took control of the contest against former world champion Smith, until a horrendous cut dramatically changed the course of the contest and Gary Lockett was forced to pull his man out of the fight. Williams suffered a severe double laceration to his right eyelid and was immediately sent for plastic surgery.
‘The Machine’ got off to a flying start which culminated in a heavy right hand landing flush on Smith to open up a cut above his right eye in the third.
Williams was far sharper and faster and refused to be walked down in the opening rounds. A right-left combination in the third sent Smith staggering back and he smiled to acknowledge it was a substantial attack.
In the middle rounds, the pair occupied the centre of the ring and exchanged brutal blows in a bloodied battle. Due to the excess claret pouring from Smith’s eye, he was called for a doctor’s inspection in the seventh stanza and allowed to continue.
In what was a tremendously entertaining encounter, ‘Beefy’ began to edge his way back into the contest after the halfway mark to catch up on points, almost.
Frustrated, Smith landed a blow after the bell as the end of the eighth chimed. Smith’s style means that he is always there, tucked up, with his high guard and peekaboo tactics, which means he is always a target to be hit, but also means that if he’s always there, then there’s no respite for his opponents.
In the ninth round, he came on strong, perhaps sensing he was trailing or believing that Williams, who had never gone the 12 round distance before, was tiring. In what was the best round of the fight, with non-stop trading, Smith leaned in with his head with just 20 seconds remaining and opened up the offending gash that subsequently halted the contest moments later.
The offence happened so fast that it was hard to see if it was caused by hand or head, but the replay clearly showed it was either deliberate or extremely clumsy and reckless from Smith.
Despite winning, Smith missed the weight limit so the interim WBA super-welterweight title remained vacant.
The far from conclusive ending immediately set up the rematch for November, but next time Smith took the win with a mixed decision, two judges scoring it to ‘Beefy’ and one ruling as a draw.
Since then, Williams has moved up to middleweight and reeled off six straight stoppages. The scalps have been hugely impressive, with wins over unbeaten powerhouse Mark Heffron to win the Lonsdale belt in a second, heavier division; followed by a blisteringly fast and successful defence against tough challenger Joe Mullender with a second-round KO; then a step up to claim the WBC Silver title with a consecutive second-round stoppage of ex-European champion Karim Achour, who had never been stopped before; culminating in a fifth-round TKO of WBO #1 Alantez Fox to win the WBO Inter-Continental strap, which puts him at No.2 with the Organisation.
He is also ranked at WBC #4 and IBO #6, meaning that a world title shot is imminent for the two-time British champion.
Smith has since parted ways with promoter Frank Warren to join Matchroom, like his brothers before him, and secured a shot at world honours with his brace of wins over Williams.
It was in July 2018, when unbeaten Mexican Jaime Munguia floored Smith in round six to widely outpoint the Brit in what was his first time going a full 12 rounds.
In 2019, the Liverpudlian blitzed through Sam Eggington in five rounds; then defeated two Mexicans across the Atlantic to secure WBO #2 and IBO #5 rankings at 154lbs.
Operating at different weighs now, it’s unlikely there’ll ever be a third fight between Smith and Williams to compete the trilogy, but fans can look back fondly at two of the best British battles in recent times.