By Elliot Foster
Liam Smith booked himself another world title shot with a points win over Liam Williams.
The former WBO super-welterweight world champion made sure to repeat the result of their first fight, a controversial stoppage back in April at Manchester Arena, this time on neutral territory.
Smith, who moved on to 26-1-1 with 14 KOs to his name with the win, was awarded the fight by majority decision at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, exclusively live on BT Sport and BoxNation.
There was again contention over the result, with Williams' corner perplexed by the verdict, as the three ringside judges turned in tallies of 114-114, 116-112, 117-111 in favour of ‘Beefy’.
The 28-year-old will now face the next available contender, expected to be WBO International champion and number one-ranked Magomed Kurbanov, for the vacant WBO belt, once Miguel Cotto has had his farewell fight against Sadam Ali at Madison Square Garden in New York City next month.
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, trained by Gary Lockett, be the busier fighter, presumably with an eye on grinding him down in the later sessions.
Smith, with the ever-vocal Joe Gallagher in his corner, 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 round.
However, ‘Dully’ was disappointed at the final bell with the verdict read out against him after 12 hard-fought rounds.
"I thought Liam Williams would tire, but it didn't go like that," Smith said afterwards.
“He was a very static target and didn't land enough to win rounds. I thought my jab dominated.
“I took over at the start of the second-half of the fight and took over again in the 11th and 12th rounds. I thought a draw would have been generous to him.”
Promoter Frank Warren said that there is a possibility that Cotto could yet fight Smith –– and that’s a fight that the Scouser has always liked the sound of, having previously been in the ring with one of the world’s best in Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
“Cotto fights next month and he has said that this will be his last fight, but we always hear those things,” he said. “If it is Cotto’s last fight then Liam will fight the next available contender, but if not then Liam will face Cotto.
“Whatever happens, Liam will fight for the world title early next year.”
Smith continued to give his own assessment of the fight, but did admit to a momentary lapse in concentration.
“I thought it was a good boxing performance. I used my jab well and showed that I could box as well as fight if I needed to and that I’ve got a good set of legs.
“I thought I was ahead early on, but I switched off and Williams won two rounds on the bounce.
“I think I ran away with it in the championship rounds and although it wasn’t the fight everyone wanted, I said I wasn’t going to make the same mistake as last time and I turned up this time.
“I’ll probably go out there to watch the Cotto-Ali fight and I’m a bit gutted we missed the boat for that fight, but I’m confident that Frank and my management team at MTK can deliver that world title shot again, potentially once more on home soil.”