By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
STEPHEN SMITH was devastated he could not bring home the IBF super-featherweight title for his kids.
The Liverpool fight lost a unanimous decision to the impressive Puerto Rican puncher Jose Pedraza on Saturday night in America.
Proud father Smith, 30, proved he is capable of mixing it with the best in the division, but the IBF champion was just too good.
“I’m devastated to have lost my fight, I'd have given anything to win that belt for my kids,” he said.
“But it wasn't to be, I lost to the better man on the night.
“Pedraza was good. I trained hard and I was in good shape, there are no excuses. I'm sorry and I'll be back.”
Smith had waited so long for his chance at a world title after slowing building himself back up following his 2011 defeat by Lee Selby at featherweight.
The fight exploded into life in the second when Pedraza caught Smith with two sharp right hands.
The unbeaten Puerto Rican was supremely accurate with his jab in the early rounds and his head movement made it difficult for Smith to land.
The Liverpool man – one of four fighting brothers that have all won British titles – was starting to land with flurries of shots as the fight went on.
But in the ninth a good right landed with Smith off balance and he touched down on the canvas.
Smith tried to push Pedraza back in the last three rounds, but the IBF champion was back in his rhythm and working the jab well again as he saw out the fight.
Smith will hope he can get a shot at one of the division’s other world champions and there was no evidence here that he cannot achieve his dream on another night.
In Leeds, Josh Warrington continued his rise up the ranks with a points win over Japan’s Hisashi Amagasa and is eyeing up a crack at Welshman Lee Selby.
And IBF featherweight champion Selby now is up for the scrap against the Leeds man.
Selby said: “It is a mouth-watering prospect because it is two Brits in the ring fighting for a world title but I honestly believe it would be an easy night’s work for me. I’m happy to do it.
“Bring Warrington on, I would fight him in a heart-beat, but there is only one result and that’s me keeping my title.”