NEW YORK -- Super middleweight world titleholder Callum Smith hoped to score an impressive victory in his first defense against Hassan N'Dam to catch the attention of Canelo Alvarez, whom he hopes to fight in the future.
Smith certainly seemed to do just that, scoring three knockdowns in an utterly one-sided, third-round demolition of former middleweight titlist N'Dam in the co-feature of the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz Jr. heavyweight world title fight on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Smith nearly ended the fight in the first round when he planted N'Dam on the canvas with a left hook to the face. N'Dam, 35, a Cameroon native based in France, was very unsteady when he rose and went down soon after, although referee Charlie Fitch ruled it was from a slip.
Smith scored another solid knockdown in the second round with another left hook and dominated N'Dam (37-4, 21 KOs) in that round, as well.
And in the third round, Smith (26-0, 19 KOs), 29, of England, landed a ferocious right hand that flattened N'Dam, his former longtime sparring partner, and prompted Fitch to wave off the fight without a count at 2 minutes, 56 seconds.
"I think my audition went well," Smith said. "Canelo is a special fighter. I will have to wait to see what he will do in September, or if not September, then see what he wants to do in May . He hasn't said he is moving up to 168 yet, but I believe I am the best fighter in the world at 168, so I am open to the challenge. But I don't want to keep waiting for the fight that might never happen; I want to keep fighting great champions in the meantime and stay busy.
"There's a lot of good fighters at 168 with or without Canelo, so I want to test myself against them. If Canelo steps up in the future, then it will happen."
Alvarez, the three-belt unified middleweight world champion and a secondary titleholder at super middleweight, has said he is interested in a possible super middleweight bout with Smith. The latter won a 168-pound world title last September by knocking out countryman George Groves in the seventh round and sending him into retirement in the final of the World Boxing Super Series in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
"It felt good to be back in there. I took a few months longer than most new champions to get back in there, but I showed that I am the best in the world," Smith said. "I plan to keep proving that over the next few years. I hope the fans enjoyed it, and I hope to be back in the ring soon with bigger and better things."
Alvarez is due to return in September, and most believe he will fight Gennady Golovkin for a third time as long as GGG takes care of his business against Steve Rolls on June 8. But if something gets in the way of an Alvarez-Golovkin III deal, Smith will be there waiting if Alvarez wants to take the risk against a much bigger man.
Taylor unifies all four major lightweight belts
From the moment Katie Taylor turned pro after a stellar amateur career that included two Olympic appearances and a gold medal for Ireland in 2012, she had designs on becoming an undisputed professional champion.
She accomplished the goal by winning a majority decision against Delfine Persoon in a rock 'em, sock 'em, action fight from start to finish. Taylor won 96-94 on two scorecards, and one judge had it 95-95. ESPN had it 96-94 for Persoon.
"It was a very, very close fight," Taylor said. "I felt like I won the earlier rounds, and she came on strong at the end. But I feel like I did enough to win that fight. But it was very, very close, and I knew it was going to be that kind of fight. Persoon was a fantastic champion, and she is very, very strong. It all made for a fantastic showcase for women's boxing. I knew this was going to be the biggest and hardest fight of my life. But I am great at digging deep.
"I am born for fights like these in the trenches. I worked so hard these past few months in training camp for this kind of fight."
Taylor retained her three belts and won Persoon's to become only the seventh fighter, male or female, of the four-belt era to become an undisputed world champion, and the third woman to do so. The fight was less than two months after Claressa Shields dominated Christina Hammer in a one-sided decision to unify the four major women's middleweight titles on April 13. The other woman to accomplish the feat is reigning undisputed women's welterweight world champion Cecilia Braekhus.
There have also been only four men to hold all four belts at the same time: cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who did it last year; junior welterweight Terence Crawford (2017); and middleweights Jermain Taylor (2005) and Bernard Hopkins (2004).
Taylor (14-0, 6 KOs), 32, made her seventh title defense in the toughest fight of her career.
The fight was a brawl from the outset. They landed many clean shots in a fight that rarely let up. Persoon's left eye was marked by the third round, and she was cut over the left eye later in the fight but never stopped plowing ahead.
They pounded each other with combinations, but Persoon knocked Taylor into the ropes in the eighth round with a right hand and forced her to hang on. Taylor appeared to be slowing down in the later rounds and was in retreat at times, including when she was staggered in the 10th round, but she did enough on two scorecards to end the long reign of Persoon (43-2, 18 KOs), 34, of Belgium, who was making her 10th title defense since winning her belt in 2014.
"I am definitely happy to give Delfine a rematch," Taylor said. "There are big fights out there for me. There's Amanda Serrano, and I think that fight should be next, but I am really happy to fight whoever."
Algieri stops Coyle in barn burner
Former junior welterweight world titlist Chris Algieri stopped Tommy Coyle in the eighth round in an all-out slugfest.
Algieri (24-3, 9 KOs), 35, of nearby Huntington, New York, won his third consecutive fight since returning in November from a 2½-year layoff following a fifth-round knockout loss to Errol Spence Jr. at welterweight in April 2016.
"My whole game plan for this camp was that on June 1, 2019, at Madison Square Garden, I, Chris Algieri, will stop Tommy Coyle," Algieri said. "I have been saying that over and over and over throughout camp. That was the game plan, and we knew how to do it. I made it tougher than it needed to be, but I got it done.
It didn't look good for Algieri early when Coyle landed a powerful right hand to the chin that rocked him in the second round. Coyle followed up with a series of punches that seemed to have him on the verge of going down before he got himself together.
In the fourth round, Algieri badly hurt Coyle with a left to the body that made him grimace in pain. He staggered backward toward the ropes, and Algieri landed two more to the body to drop Coyle. He beat the count, but even though he was clearly in pain, he mustered enough to slug it out with Algieri for the rest of the round.
The fight continued to be a slugfest, with both men showing the marks of the violence around their eyes. But when the eighth round was over, Coyle's corner stopped the fight.
"My [good looks] will be back in a few weeks, don't worry about it," Algieri said. "They knew I was coming with the jab, and they countered it really well. They got with me some great overhand rights in the first few rounds. There was a lot of in-fighting. Tommy is a tough, young guy. If you can come out of a fight with Tommy Coyle and not have some bruises and marks, well then, I tip my hat to you. But I went in there and got the stoppage I wanted to make a statement."
Coyle (25-5, 12 KOs), 29, of England, who was fighting in the U.S. for the second fight in a row, saw his three-fight winning streak end.
Kelly and Robinson draw
Welterweight Josh Kelly, a 2016 British Olympian and one of boxing's top prospects, escaped with a charitable draw against Ray Robinson.
One judge had Kelly winning 96-95, and the other two had it 95-95 after a fight in which Robinson seemed to dominate, especially over the second half.
Kelly (9-0-1, 6 KOs), 25, of England, got off to a solid start, but Robinson came on throughout the bout. He opened a cut over Kelly's left eye in the seventh round and landed a lot of punches later in the fight. In the ninth round, Robinson (24-3-2, 12 KOs), 33, a southpaw from Philadelphia, sent Kelly's mouthpiece flying out and finished the round taking it to him.
Kelly snapped Robinson's head back with a right hand in the 10th round, but by the end of it, he was also cut over his right eye in what had been the toughest fight of his young career. He won the 10th round on all three scorecards to achieve the draw.
"To win you have to outwork him. I thought I did," Robinson said. "He did a lot of moving his body, moving his head, and I stalked him. I feel like they brought a pup to a dog fight."
Robinson got his second draw in a row, dropping to 0-1-2 in his past three fights. On March 30, he seemed to be on the lucky side of a hometown draw against Egidijus Kavaliauskas.
Buatsi impressively stops Periban
Light heavyweight Joshua Buatsi, the Anthony Joshua-managed 2016 British Olympic bronze medalist, stopped Marco Antonio Periban in the fourth round to retain his regional belt.
Buatsi (11-0, 9 KOs), 26, one of boxing's top prospects, dominated the fight. He dropped Periban with a right hand in the fourth round. Periban was able to continue but took a series of right hands before referee Tony Chiarantano stepped in with Periban getting blasted at 1 minute, 39 seconds.
Periban (25-5-1, 16 KOs), 34, a former super middleweight world title challenger from Mexico, lost his second fight in a row.
"I think it was just under a 5," Buatsi said, rating his performance. "I rushed my work. I was too eager. I wanted to take my time. I thought I got a great win in my U.S. debut. I hope Periban is OK. He was slippery, but once I hurt him, I thought, 'It's time, it's time.'"
As for the next step in his developments, Buatsi said, "I'd like to fight back home but come out here [to the U.S.] once in a while. Hopefully, in the future, there's going to be some big fights to come back here for. I am so glad to have experienced fighting in Madison Square Garden. I am humbled to be here."
Also on the undercard
Middleweight Austin "Ammo" Williams (2-0, 2 KO), 23, of Houston, who turned pro in April with a first-round knockout win, scored another first-round knockout, this time disposing of Quadeer Jenkins (3-6-1, 2 KOs), 31, of Charleston, West Virginia. It was Jenkins' fifth loss in a row. Williams rocked him with a left hand and then dropped him with a flurry of punches. Moments later, Williams nailed him with another series of punches that prompted referee Chiarantano to wave it off at 2 minutes 14 seconds.
Junior middleweight Souleymane Cissokho (9-0, 6 KOs), 27, the Joshua-managed 2016 Olympic bronze medalist from France, rolled to a one-sided decision over Vladimir Hernandez (10-4, 6 KOs), 30, of Mexico, who took a ton of punches but hung in there until the final bell. Cissokho got in a good workout, and the scores were 80-72, 79-73 and 79-72.