‘King’ Lyndon Arthur was given a rugged 12 rounds by a relentless Dec Spelman, but always held a distinct edge in quality behind a stellar jab and superior reflexes to retain his Commonwealth light-heavyweight crown on the cards at the BT Sport Studio in Stratford, London, on Friday night.
Scores were 116-112, 116-113 and 119-109.
With his trademark pressure, Spelman had a bright opening round as Arthur (17-0, 12 KOs) initially struggled with his range. But from the second, the championâ€™s fast jab and crisp shots began to take over. Spelman trapped the Mancunian on the ropes in the third, but a sharper Arthur seemed to have found his measure as the challenger bled from the nose.
Spelman (16-4, 8 KOs) was unrelenting, but Arthurâ€™s incisive lead and effortless variety, held sway including a picture perfect right uppercut off the ropes in the fourth. The Scunthorpe man persevered doggedly with Arthur content to pick off the challenger with his back to the ropes yet Spelman caught his attention with a hefty right hand in a strong finish to the fifth.
The challenger stuck to his task with route one pressure, but Arthurâ€™s slicker cameos and fast hands generally caught the eye. The champion was forced to work every second and, again, Spelman ramped up his workrate at the end of the sixth.
One tough hombre, Spelman shipped some heavy shots but stood firm. He trapped Arthur in a corner at the end of the seventh in a typically tireless assault. Yet a switch-hitting Arthur always had that extra edge in speed and spite as Spelman sought to engage in the pocket.
The Scunthorpe battler never took a backward step, in the ultimately vain hope that his pressure would pay dividends later on. One had to admire his fortitude. He never stopped believing, but by the end of the ninth it seemed a minor miracle was required.
The savvy Arthur boxed adroitly on the backfoot, absorbing the incoming artillery with a cool head and quick hands. Spelman was marked under the right eye and carrying the wounds of war, but quickened his feet to enjoy some brighter moments in the 10th.
Yet Arthur usually had the answer to that steady drip of pressure from the challenger. He carried on trudging forward gamely in a losing cause. In the final round, he pressed once more, but Arthur seamlessly soaked up the waves of pressure to triumph on the cards.
‘The Beast’ Anthony Yarde should be next.
Belfast middleweight hope Caimhin Agyarko (7-0, 4 KOs) was ultimately too strong and resourceful for late sub Jez Smith, scoring three knockdowns en route to a ninth-round victory in a decent scrap.
Smith (11-2-1, 5 KOs) emerged with credit, having stepped up from welterweight and had his moments in the fourth and fifth with some searching right hands.
But in the seventh, Agyarkoâ€™s advantage in strength became more prominent as he floored the Harrow man with a right uppercut and a thudding left hook to the body. The Belfastman hammered Smith to the body, but the younger brother of former hot prospect Mitchell hung in there.
In the eighth, Agyarko scored another knockdown with a brisk left-right to the body before a right hand upstairs sent Smith down again in the ninth. He rose gamely but referee Mark Lyson had seen enough.
Liverpool has always been a hotbed of boxing talent and a trio of talented Scousers made the trip down to London to emerge victorious on the bill.
In a clash of unbeatens, surging 130-pounder Nick Ball (13-0, 6 KOs) had too much in his locker for gritty Londoner Jerome Campbell (6-1, 1 KO) who did well to last the course. Referee Mark Lyson scored 79-72 after issuing a count in the seventh when Campbell was badly buzzed but held up by the ropes. Campbell stood firm under heavy fire in the closing stages of the eighth to see out the fight.
Another super-feather Andrew Cain (6-0, 6 KOs) dominated Blackpoolâ€™s lanky Ed Harrison (1-4, 0 KOs) to force a retirement after the third round. The buzzsaw-like Cain tore into his rangier opponent from the opening bell and always carried the danger with his heavier hands. Harrison was bleeding heavily from the nose when he was pulled out after the third.
Super-bantam Brad Strand (4-0, 1 KO) had a good learning experience against seasoned journeyman Brett Fidoe (13-63-5, 6 KOs) to win a shutout 40-36 decision on the card of referee Howard Foster. Strand was always in control behind a smooth jab as Fidoe illustrated his usual competence and resilience.