In a mesmeric night of boxing, Britain gained a new world champion and retained one as “World War III” lived up to its billing at the Manchester Arena in England.
The headline bout saw Terry Flanagan (29-0, 12 KOs) destroy Diego Magdaleno (28-2, 12 KOs) in a two- round annihilation, silencing critics regarding his paper champion status in the first defense of his WBO world Lightweight belt.
The Mancunian started the onslaught early in the second round with a right hook that floored the challenger, from which the rugged American never recovered.
He followed up with a sensational, long left uppercut that nearly sent Magdaleno airborne, before adding another flurry of punches that toppled the challenger for the second time.
A dismantled figure, Magdaleno was helpless to the barrage of Flanagan left hands, and referee Terry O’Connor was forced to stop the proceedings in a bout that was previewed as fifty-fifty.
Flanagan won the belt outright in July against Jose Zepeda, but it came in controversial circumstances when the latter was forced to withdraw with a dislocated shoulder in Round 2, with many believing it should have been ruled a no contest.
There are no doubting his credentials now however, with a domineering performance that will send shockwaves throughout the division.
Liam Smith (21-0-1, 11 KOs) became the first of the four Smith brothers to land a world title in the co-main feature, winning the WBO Junior Middleweight strap with a seventh-round knockout of John Thompson (17-2, 6 KOs).
In the opening five rounds, an animated crowd were muted when Thompson demonstrated excellent boxing skills, dictating the direction of the bout with a long left lead, smothering Smith’s work.
Though it was in the sixth, when Smith found unrelenting success with flurries of purposeful jabs in a dramatic turn around, with Thompson appearing a spent force in the closing quarters of the round.
Sensing an imminent stoppage in the seventh, Smith hunted his foe around the ring, landing viciously to the head with pin-point accuracy, constantly snapping back the head of the depleted American.
A bludgeoning right hand to the temple sent Thompson tumbling to the canvas face first, and when Marcus Mcdonnell waived it off immediately, the new world champion celebrated jubilantly with the fellow Smith entourage.
Luke Blackledge (20-2-2, 6 KOs) retained his Commonwealth Super-Middleweight title formally held by Carl Froch and George Groves, in a gruelling 12 round unanimous decision win over Lee Markham (14-3-1 7, KOs).
Loaded with intense exchanges, the title holder found success from range, whilst Markham operated more comfortably and effective on the inside.
The challenger managed to negate Blackledge’s strengths in the eleventh, shaking him with a right hand, the most notable punch in the fight.
Though it was Blackledge who’s thoughtful and busier work was favoured by the judges, edging it with scores of 116-114, 116-113 and 115-114.
It’s been a rewarding period for Blackledge, following a demoralising first round knockout defeat to Rocky Fielding back in November 2013, winning five on the spin including the title win over Liam Cameron back in April.
He now cements himself as a top contender in a loaded domestic scene, alongside fighters such as Fielding, Callum Smith, Martin Murray, Frank Buglioni, George Groves and James Degale.
The Manchester crowd were treated to a barnburner when lightweights Tommy Stalker (10-2-1, 2 KOs) and Craig Evans (14-1-1 2 KOs) battled to a highly contentious draw for the vacant WBO European Lightweight title, in a bout that many predicted to be a tentative ten rounder.
In a crossroads fight for both men, the pair boxed at a frantic pace in the first round, trading leather in a sumptuous three minutes of action.
Followed by four highly contended rounds, Stalker took control in the fifth and sixth, with Evans showing visible signs of wear and tear as the punishment poured in.
Brave Evans tried to rally, but Stalker continued to dominate in the championship rounds, and was close to finding the illusive knockout landing flush combinations in the closing minutes.
But a career best performance from the highly tipped Liverpudlian ended on a sour note when scores of 97-93, 94-96 and 95-95 robbed him of a deserved victory.
The usually entertaining Light-Welterweight Jack Catterall (13-0, 8 KOs) appeared lethargic in a ten round decision win over Finland’s Jarkko Putkonen (12-1, 6 KOs), despite producing a faultless set of scorecards among the three judges,
Ranked ninth with the WBO, the exciting prospect is known for his explosive performances, but failed to impress spectators with clean, precise work, never showing the breathless action he exhibited in previous bouts.
With the pressure of India weighing on his shoulders, boxing sensation and Bollywood star Vijendar Singh (1-0, 1 KOs) took on Sonny Whiting (2-2, 1 KOs) in his pro debut recording a third round TKO in a four round contest.
The Middleweight is India’s first Olympic and World Championship medalist, and certainly lived up to the hype showing a good array of punches and lateral movement, staggering Whiting with a left in the closing seconds of the first round.
It turned ugly in the third when Whiting was deducted a point for an aggressive use of the head, and the potential poster head for Indian boxing responded emphatically laying a bullish three punch combination on his opponent, forcing the referee to step in.
In a bad-blood Manchester derby, Adrian Gonzales (12-1, 4 KOs) knocked out Jon Kays (21-5-1, 5 KOs) in four rounds.
The fight garnered friction after a social media fall out, and it was Gonzales who put the argument to bed scoring four knockdowns, finishing it in the fourth with a tremendous right lead uppercut to capture the WBO Inter-Continental lightweight title.
Despite the omission of the world title fight between Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders which was supposed to be included on the bill, viewers worldwide were enthralled by a plethora of edge-of-your-seat fights in Manchester, as Britain continued their conquest on the world stage with now 8 world champions.