Tony Bellew was left frustrated in Liverpool after a lackadaisical performance saw him draw with fellow world title contender Isaac Chilemba. The 30-year-old Scouser knew victory in this WBC light-heavyweight title final eliminator would put him in position to take on American champion Chad Dawson, who first defends his title against Adonis Stevenson in June.
Bellew was unable to force that title challenge, though, with a laboured night's work in front of 7,000 partisan fans at the Echo Arena in his home city. Bellew - with a record of 19-1 with 12 early wins heading in - is ranked at number one with the WBC having steadily rebuilt since his only career defeat, which came against British rival Nathan Cleverly for the Welshman's WBO title in 2011.
Malawi native Chilemba, with a record of 20-1-1 (9KO wins) heading into the encounter, represented another step up for the Englishman and boasted a number three ranking with the WBC.
Bellew still seemed flat, only sporadically forcing the action as he urged the crowd to gee him up. A right to the body did land for the Briton but he faced an anxious wait before scores were read out.
One judge scored it 116-112 for Chilemba, another 116-115 for Bellew and the third had it level at 114-114 to leave both men disappointed.
Bellew said afterwards: "I thought I won nine out of the 12 rounds and even Chilemba's trainer Buddy McGirt, one of the most respected men in boxing, told me he thought I won.
"I've got a lot of time for Chilemba he's a good fighter and a tough man but I won the fight."