Zelfa Barrett scored possibly the biggest win of his career over a rejuvenated and determined Jordan Gill to win a slick, stylish and high-quality clash and inch closer to a world title fight.

Barrett collected a WBA International super featherweight belt after a brace of sickening body shots, both delivered with the left hand, twice downed Gill in the decisive 10th round.

Referee John Latham intervened with Gill under fire after 2:44 of round 10.

“It [winning] was vital, it was do or die tonight. If I didn’t win, where would I go?” asked the winner. “Gill, he’s a tough, tough fighter. He pushed me. Top fighter.

“I had to work hard. I didn’t underestimate Gill but I didn’t think he was as good as he was because I thought [Michael] Conlan was shot [after Gill beat the Irishman last year], but he [Gill] proved me wrong. I had to find it. I worked hard for this.”

Gill was sporting as ever, and said he realized the more he had to push the fight, the more he knew he would be leaving himself open. Gill showed incredible heart and courage to rise from two horrible knockdowns, and he wished Barrett well for a second assault on a world title.

Both filed some classy work early on. Gill was pushing the pace, but Barrett landed a couple of flashy uppercuts and also invested time and effort into Gill’s body.

Manchester’s Barrett landed a big, crisp overhand right in the third that drew gasps from the Manchester Arena crowd, but Gill managed to apply some more pressure and landed to the body himself before the session closed.

Gill, trained by Ben Davison, switched southpaw through the fourth but Barrett’s frequent attacks with right uppercuts and left hooks to the body were proving hard to defend.

The man from Chatteris, however, tried to forge forwards in the fifth, although Barrett’s defense was often tight enough but neither dominated the sixth, with Barrett using the ring to frustrate Gill but not landing much of note of his own.

That said, Barrett was landing something because as the seventh started, there was an ugly swelling around Gill’s left eye. There were moments of quality from both boxers. Gill was grinding forward and chipping away to the body, probably in a bid to slow Barrett’s fast feet, and both corners seemed happy enough with their fighters heading into the eighth.

Gill enjoyed a spell with Barrett in a corner, where Jordan threw some good shots downstairs, and there were signs that momentum might shift his way, but there was not much in what was an intriguing rather than thrilling encounter.

Barrett was caught by a jab when guilty of defending in straight lines in the ninth and Zelfa was not doing enough to stifle Gill’s work and seemingly didn’t have the venom to keep Gill off, either.

Both looked fit and strong heading into the 10th.

“Looking good, looking good,” Gill was told in the corner.

“Switch back on now,” Pat Barrett told Zelfa on the other side.

The contest was poised entering round 10, but with less than a minute gone in the round, Barrett found a spot for another left to the body and, delayed, Gill dropped to the canvas, flat on his back.

It appeared that he might see out the count there, but at “five” Gill sprung back up and desperately tried to guard his torso as Barrett swept in with both hands to finish the job.

The Manchester man focused on trying to get that left into the body again as Gill battled back with guts and gusto before Barrett dropped him once more with the same shot; another left to the body. Gill must have been in agony, but again he rose and said he could fight on while still trying to catch his breath and with all eyes on that part of Gill’s body, Barrett lashed in two overhand rights and the referee John Latham called it off.

Gill is now 28-3-1 (9 KOs). Barrett is 31-2 (17 KOs).

Promoter Eddie Hearn said: “I’ve just said to Jordan Gill, don’t give up, because I think he’s improved so much under Ben Davison, the performance against Conlan was really good and the performance tonight through nine rounds… It was anybody’s fight.”  

Hearn, meanwhile, said Barrett could now fight the likes of Lamont Roach or Joe Cordina.

“Anybody can get it,” smiled Barrett.

Just before the main event, Liverpool’s popular middleweight hope Ste Clarke, trained by former world title challenger Stephen Smith, improved to 2-0 (1 KO) with victory over Swindon’s Jensen Irving, who is now 4-10. Clarke won 40-35 for scoring referee Mark Lyson.  dropping Irving in the second.