By Elliot Foster (@FreelanceFoz)
Andre Ward returned after a 19-month hiatus with a stoppage win.
The unbeaten American, who moved to 28-0, sliced up Paul Smith en-route to securing a 15th early finish in his unblemished career.
WBA champion Ward was set to fight over 12 rounds in a non-title contest against the Liverpudlian, a former two-time world title challenger, but got the job done early against a man who technically weighed in a cruiserweight after missing the weight not once but twice.
The scale farce cost the 32-year-old $60,000 of his reported $225,000 purse, while Ward, whose last outing was a defence of his Boxing Association Super title against Edwin Rodriguez in 2013, earned a reported $2million for the fight at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Smith was barely able to make a fight of it in the early rounds as Ward put on a boxing clinic in front of a packed out California crowd.
A cut eventually developed over the left eye of the visitor, who went in to the fight on the back of two world title fight defeats against WBO king Arthur Abraham, after he was picked apart and virtually gave away the first half of the fight.
Smith, who dropped to 35-6 (20) in defeat, landed a right hand in round seven, but his success was short-lived as Ward adjusted.
From there, Smith –– who was past the point of even saving face –– lost round eight and then the stoppage came after one minute and 46 seconds in the ninth.by