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Dalton Smith Knocks Jose Zepeda Out In 5th Round, Calls For Adam Azim Showdown

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Dalton Smith took care of the task at hand and then immediately revisited unfinished business.

A statement was made by the unbeaten 140-pounder in a fifth-round knockout of Jose Zepeda. A body shot produced the knockout at 1:25 of round five Saturday at Utilita Arena in Sheffield, England.

The crossroads bout was viewed as a step-up and major test for the locally based Smith (16-0, 12 knockouts). Zepeda has only fallen short at the major title level. He pushed Jose Ramirez to the brink and went into the eleventh round with Regis Prograis in their Nov. 2022 WBC title fight.

None of that experience came into play on Saturday for the visiting California native. Zepeda (37-5, 28 KOs) struggled to untrack his offense for the second straight night. He was lethargic and ineffective in a twelve-round points loss to Richardson Hitchins last September in Orlando.

On that night, Zepeda was never a threat to get stopped; the unbeaten Hitchins was content to box his way to victory.

Smith was far more determined to deliver an emphatic message. Too much was at stake in this matchup as well as the immediate future for the 27-year-old.

The bout was made as a fight was ordered for Smith to challenge European 140-pound titlist Adam Azim (11-0, 8 KOs). The domestic battle was parked, seemingly to the delight of Azim and promoter BOXXER who’ve tempered their enthusiasm.

Fair reasoning was offered as it made sense to wait out Saturday’s result. That only further fueled Smith to dominate Zepeda in a way that hasn’t been done in the visiting southpaw’s career.

It required a persistent effort by Smith, who tagged Zepeda with a right uppercut to rock the longtime contender.

“I was hitting him with some clean shots and thinking to myself that he wasn’t budging,” Smith said. “I caught him with an uppercut and it stunned him.

“Then I lured him in.”

Smith stood directly in front of Zepeda, determined to land the knockout blow. It came in the form of a straight right hand to the midsection.

Zepeda paused before he fell to a knee. The expression on his face told the tale, as he took the full ten count from referee Victor Loughlin.

“I had to be on my game,” admitted Smith. “If I switched off for one second… you see what Jose does. He puts people to sleep.”

Those days seem to be over for the 34-year-old Zepeda, who has lost three of his last four starts.

Zepeda was stopped by Regis Prograis in the eleventh round of their November 2022 WBC 140-pound title fight, albeit in a valiant effort. He fought for the same belt in a Feb. 2019 majority decision defeat to then-unbeaten Jose Ramirez.

Saturday’s performance coupled with the lopsided defeat to Hitchins has perhaps removed Zepeda from even gatekeeper status.

Meanwhile, Smith begins the ascension from prospect to contender.

Still, there remains one fight that he insists upon before he makes a run at a major title.

“I don’t call many names out,” noted Smith, before he broke that rule. “But I got one name. Adam Azim, where are you at? Eddie [Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport] does all my talking.”

The hope prior to the fight was to either negotiate a future challenge for Azim’s European title or send the matter to a purse bid hearing.

The belief, however, is that his countryman will find cause to head in a different direction after Saturday’s performance.

“There’s one reason Adam hasn’t vacated that title. It’s because he thought I was gonna lose tonight,” insisted Smith. “But you know what? I bet he vacates now.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for The Ring and vice president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Follow @JakeNDaBox

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