Ricky Burns' third defence of his WBO super-featherweight title ended dramatically last night here with one of the most unusual injuries seen in the ring. Challenger Nicky Cook was carried out on a stretcher by paramedics after 1min 33sec of the first round with what appeared to be a serious back problem.
Cook had been floored in the opening seconds with a right hand which landed in the lumber region around the kidneys and as he rose while referee Phil Edwards counted above him, his left leg buckled and he clutched his back in agony.
The fight continued with 31-year-old Cook, a former world champion from Dagenham, now a bar owner in Tenerife, limping badly. He was sent to the floor twice more, from a right to the chin and a body shot; each time he rose, clearly affected by the injury, and seconds after the towel fluttered in from his corner, Edwards stopped the fight.
Cook had to be helped back to his stool and being taken for after x-rays in hospital it was pronounced that he had suffered a prolapsed disc.
It was a disappointing ending but one which gives the 28-year-old Glaswegian, the least auspicious of Britain's quartet of world champions, a chance to make a bigger noise on the international stage with the prospect of a unification fight with the WBA champion Brandon Rios.
In the much-anticipated North-South lightweight clash here, Londoner Kevin Mitchell ended the unbeaten run – the longest in British boxing – of Manchester's John Murray.
The eighth-round stoppage came after a savage, fiercely contested battle that bought Mitchell the WBO Intercontinental title and projected him back on to the world stage from which he had fallen after his painful defeat to Michael Katsidis a year ago.
Murray had seemed to be edging the contest before he was caught with a left uppercut at the end of the seventh round and a similar blow midway though the eighth sent him toppling forward on his knees.
Referee Richie Davies waved him back into the fight but he promptly stopped it as Mitchell swarmed in again, clearly aware that Murray could barely see because of huge swellings around both eyes.
Former world amateur champion Frankie Gavin maintained his unbeaten pro career and retained his WBO Intercontinental welterweight belt but opponent Curtis Woodhouse provided an unexpectedly tough examination of the Birmingham southpaw's skill and resilience.
Gavin won on a split decision, though it was difficult to see how one ringside judge, Dave Parris, scored it 115-114 in Woodhouse's favour. The other two judges marked it 117-112 and 116-113 to the 25-year-old Gavin, who recorded his 11th successive win. But Woodhouse, 31, a one-time England Under-21 footballer who played for a number of clubs including Birmingham, pressed forward continually.
The Liverpool light-heavyweight Tony Bellew added the vacantBritish title to his Commonwealth belt with a unanimous points decision over Derby's Ovill McKenzie. "Bomber" Bellew abandonedhis usual slam-bam approach toout-box the challenger with adisciplined display in a tepid encounter.
This victory puts him in line for a shot at the on-looking WBO champion Nathan Cleverly, but on this evidence the Welshman need not be unduly worried.