Kell Brook dismantled English rival Frankie Gavin in six rounds to retain his IBF title and turn his attention to making a serious dent in the welterweight division.
Brook was a heavy betting favourite heading into the bout despite Gavin’s renowned pedigree from his amateur days.
He justified the bookmakers’ faith too, as Gavin’s elusive style proved too passive and when the champion got his opening in the sixth, he piled on punishing shots to force a sixth-round stoppage.
While he may be Britain’s only world amateur champion, the Birmingham fighter is a relative novice in the professional ranks and remains largely untested.
Slick and evasive, Gavin has a loss on his ledger stemming from a spirited but hurtful split points defeat by European welterweight champion Leonard Bundu last year.
Unbeaten Brook (34-0, 23KOs), on the other hand, had to be much more patient for his world title shot. The Yorkshireman was made to bide his time until his chance finally arrived last year when he travelled to America to dethrone IBF champion Shawn Porter in California.
A routine first mandatory defence in March saw him quickly despatch Romanian Jo Jo Dan with minimal fuss, paving the way for this quick return to action against British rival Gavin.
Many experts predicted Gavin (22-1,13KOs) may have been too hasty in putting his hat in the ring for this fight so early in his career.
The build-up had been cordial between two fighters respectful of each others’ credentials, with the pair even Tweeting each other days before the bout.
Brook somewhat inevitably won a cagey opening round, beating Gavin to the punch for the most part when the two men did throw shots but without making serious inroads.
Southpaw Gavin was beautifully elusive without landing enough shots of his own to win rounds.
Brook landed a nice uppercut in the third as he refused to be frustrated and he fleetingly had Gavin on the ropes moments later.
A jab and southpaw right was Gavin’s first decent actual combination as he improved in the third and fourth, without being quite busy enough.
Brook caught him late in the round, though, and did enough to undo Gavin’s good work and win the round.
Brook sustained the attack more in the fifth, trapping Gavin briefly in a corner and unloading power shots as the challenger’s right eye began to swell up.
A big right hand in the sixth looked to hurt the Brummie but a single left hand in return landed handsomely on Brook’s chin.
Gavin landed another good right hook but was repaid in kind as Brook immediately landed a superb right cross which scrambled the challenger’s senses. Brook seized his chance, swarming forward and landing at will on the ropes before referee Steve Gray stepped in to wave it off.
``I always knew it would be tricky,'' Brook said. ``I knew it was going to be scrappy. He's awkward, he's crafty, he's smart.
“I knew I had to take my time, but I knew it was a matter of time until I nailed him.
“I could see he was tiring and I was landing heavy shots, so I knew it was only a matter of time.
“I was testing my skills out and I got it done. Now I want to move on from this.”