There was disappointment for Belfast boxer Tommy McCarthy on Saturday night as he was edged out by Chris Billam-Smith at Matchroom HQ.
Billam-Smith claimed a split decision win to add the European and British cruiserweight titles to his Commonwealth belt.
One judge scored it 115-114 to McCarthy, but that was overruled by two cards in favour of Billam-Smith – 115-114 and 116-112.
“I am elated. It has been a hard camp with some serious downs, but it was all worth it,” Billam-Smith told DAZN afterwards.
“It was attritional, but I was fitter throughout. He was gassing early on and I could win rounds comfortable. But that’s McGuigan’s Gym circuits for you.
“I felt I hurt him early on, and on the inside. Even when I had him in the fifth he was saying ‘come on boy’ but I knew he was blowing.
“I still had the fitness in there. I enjoyed it. I felt comfortable. I don’t know how he could have won 10 rounds, but the judges sit in a different position than me.
“I’d be surprised if he wanted a rematch, but first it’s my birthday on Monday and I will eat a lot.”
It was an attritional fight played out in front of a crowd at Matchroom HQ in Brentford.
McCarthy rocked Billam-Smith in the opening round with a huge overhand right after the Bournemouth fighter had initially controlled the early stages of the fight.
Like most rounds, there was very little between the pair as Billam-Smith tried to apply pressure while McCarthy found success with counter punching.
The fight appeared to swing Billam-Smith’s way in the fifth.
McCarthy got caught when trading on the inside, and his energy seemed to drop for the rest of the round as Billam-Smth forced his opponent onto the ropes.
A clash of heads resulted in a nasty cut above the right eye for McCarthy, and it seemed to bother the Belfast boxer in the seventh as blood poured down the side of his face.
Billam-Smith enjoyed a good spell in the eighth as he landed with a couple of crisp left hooks, but each time McCarthy managed to respond in what was another tough round to score.
There was a notable drop in pace in the ninth and 10th rounds as both fighters struggled to maintain the fierce pace, but McCarthy responded in the 11th, rocking Billam-Smith’s head back with a punishing right hand counter and dominating the round.
Both fighters went to the well in the 12th as the final bell sounded, with McCarthy and Billam-Smith embracing in a show of respect at the end.
Billam-Smith’s trainer Shane McGuigan praised his fighter for toughing it out with McCarthy.
“Chris is probably one of the biggest grafters in the grym. He sets the standards and the others have to up their game,” McGuigan said.
“Chris had a really bad shoulder injury about four weeks ago and we haven’t sparred since then. So to come in here without sparring was tough.
“But he came in here and he won.”