Liam Smith secured a world title shot with a win by majority decision over Welshman Liam Williams in Newcastle.
In a rematch of their April fight when the Englishman won in controversial fashion, there was again contention over the result with Williams’ corner perplexed by the verdict.
The contest did not live up to the first fight in terms of fireworks.
But Smith did enough to catch the eye of the judges who scored it 114-114, 116-112, 117-111 in his favour.
It means the Liverpool fighter is now the mandatory challenger for the WBO world super welterweight title.
In a fight justifiably billed as a grudge match following the disputed conclusion to the first contest, the prize on offer was further motivation for both boxers.
The winner was guaranteed to be next in line for a shot at the WBO title, a situation made even more enticing by the fact the champion, multi-weight world champion Miguel Cotto, is set to retire next month after facing Sadam Ali.
There was no escaping the bad blood between the fighters leading up to the contest after April’s fight ended in the 10th round with Williams’ corner withdrawing him as a result of a severe eye cut – but one caused by a crack of their heads rather than by a punch.
Once again cheered on at ringside by three brothers who are professional boxers, Smith began cautiously, boxing off the back foot and allowing the Welshman to set the pace as he did in April.
Williams was landing combinations and trying to get on the inside, but Smith seemed content to let Williams be the busier fighter, presumably with an eye on grinding him down in the later sessions.
Smith began to gain more success landing his jab in the seventh and eighth rounds, but it was Williams who started to again come on strongly, landing some big shots in the 10th.
‘A draw would have been generous to him’
The Welsh fighter said he thought he had “done enough” to win, but it was Smith who got the verdict and he can now look forward to fighting on the world stage.
“I thought Liam Williams would tire, but it didn’t go like that,” Smith said. He was a very static target and didn’t land enough to win rounds. I thought my jab dominated. I took over in rounds 11 and 12 and took over again. I thought a draw would have been generous to him.”
On the undercard, Nathan Gorman won the WBC international silver heavyweight title by stoppage over Mohammed Soltby.
Thomas Ward survived his toughest test to beat Sean Davis on points and retain the British super bantamweight title and in a battle of Teesside versus Wearside, Guisborough’s Josh Leather recovered from an early knockdown to retain his IBF European super lightweight title on a unanimous points decision.