Unbeaten Josh Holmes stops Russian Ruslan Berchuk on undercard of Jack Massey's historic IBO World title win!
Josh Holmes's ninth fight as a professional probably told us more about the unbeaten super-featherweight than the bare evidence suggests.
There was far more to the 26-year-old's performance against Ruslan Berchuk at the Bolton Whites Hotel than meets the eye.
The aesthetics of another wonderfully-crafted production were there for all to see on the undercard of Jack Massey's historic IBO World title win.
The statistics accompanying his display will also tell the story of the Phoenix Camp fighter's dominance over the near 24 minutes that elapsed.
But what the physical and numerical details of the narrative fail to tell you is that Holmes had to draw on all his reserves to come out on top of his latest contest.
Rob Rimmer's charge was bedridden, twice, in the weeks that preceded his encounter with his durable Russian rival, who had previously gone the distance with a number of European prospects.
Cold sweats, lethargy and sickness were just a few of the symptoms that had disrupted his preparation as he closed in on the final fight of the calendar year.
"I finished with a stoppage even though I didn't feel very well during the fight," he said, while Zak Miller's scrap with Christian Lopez Flores played out in the background. "I would say that's pretty good. I'm ready for a good rest over Christmas and then I'll go again next year.
"I felt a little bit drained but I'm starting to sit on my shots a little bit more. I've been trying to work on that, I've been working on my strength, I'm growing into my body a little bit more so I can progress more. I'm glad I got the stoppage and it shows that the power is there.
"It was my first eight-rounder and I felt good, the engine was good, I felt a little bit flat at times but I showed grit and heart to get the stoppage in the final round."
Holmes is as classy as they come at 130lbs. He's slick, elusive, boasts a staggering ring IQ, he can improvise, execute pre-programmed combinations to manufacture apertures in enemy defences.
He's an ambidextrous, ambipedal operator with the ability to switch stances effortlessly. Holmes's artistry is captivating, it can be made to look as though an elite-level gamer, stationed ringside, with controller in hand, is responsible for his every move.
He said: "I was switching between orthodox and southpaw, I like to mix it up and test myself. I was catching him in both stances, making him miss, so overall it was a good performance.
"I think I let him come into the fight a little bit too much in the middle rounds. I was getting a little bit lazy, I'm a relaxed fighter, but I was probably a little bit too relaxed tonight, I should have been a bit more switched on.
"It was a tough test, it went the eight rounds, but I got the stoppage in the end. He was a tough guy, I landed some big shots and he took them well. I think they started to take their toll in the later rounds and that is when I come on strong. That showed."
This was the first chin check for the ex-Yorkshire champion, who was drawn into a brawl on occasions. A few encouraging words from his corner helped Holmes recalibrate at the midway point as he stripped everything back, regained his composure and reclaimed control.
The former mechanic adopted a more methodical approach over the second half of the bout, though Berchuk, who came out swinging, tried everything in his power to knock Holmes off his stride.
That included a clash of heads in the seventh round, with a cut developing under Holmes's right eye as the seconds passed. But the home fighter, unruffled, continued on the back foot, patrolling the perimeter, spinning off the ropes and connecting clinically with a counter-punching masterclass.
Tikhvin-born Berchuk, 34, who had challenged Zsolt Bedak and Oleg Malinovskyi for WBO European belts, looked almost certain to hear the final bell for a 19th time during a mixed career, which had brought more victories than losses.
However, a breath-taking body shot from Holmes took the wind out of Berchuk's sails, forced his foe to double over in pain, and prompted the onslaught. The former amateur at Eastburn ABC was relentless at the finish, forcing a conclusion with just 12 seconds of the bout remaining.
"It's another box ticked," said Holmes. "I've stepped up to eight rounds and I've got answers from that performance. They're going to come and press me and I've got to give it back to them and show that I'm durable enough for these bigger fights. I think I did that.
"It's been too smooth sailing during my last few fights, I needed this little test because this is what we have in sparring. He lunged in with his head at times, there was a clash, I got the cut in the seventh, but that's another box ticked because it's something else I had to deal with. I dealt with it in the right way.
"He didn't really [hurt me]. He landed some good body shots when I allowed him to get too close too often. I should have kept him at distance, worked off my jab a little bit more, but we always point out the negatives. There were also a lot of positives to take away."
He added: "My coach [Rob Rimmer] was saying 'stick to your boxing'. He told me to stick to what I know without lunging in because I was doing that a little bit too much. He wanted me to keep it long, stop him from getting anywhere near me, and I think I did progress in the latter rounds.
"I caught him with some beautiful shots and he took them, but he didn't see that body shot coming in the last round. As soon as I saw the reaction I jumped on it and I think the referee should have stopped it a little bit sooner.
"He had a half-and-half record, he's fought a couple of times for WBO Inter-Continental titles, he's boxed three or four times over 10 rounds, so for me to stop him in the eighth is a bit of a statement."