Billam-Smith beats Masternak to retain title

Breaking news

Briton Chris Billam-Smith retained his WBO cruiserweight title as Mateusz Masternak retired in Bournemouth.

The contest was waved off by referee John Latham two seconds into round eight after Pole Masternak sustained an injury.

Billam-Smith struggled to match Masternak early on, but his work on the body in round seven paid dividends.

It was Billam-Smith’s first defence of his title.

He extended his winning streak to 10 and his overall record boasts 19 victories from 20 fights. He has lost only to Richard Riakporhe in 2019, and a rematch with his British rival could be next.

A Bournemouth fan, Billam-Smith had the fight at the Bournemouth International Centre moved to Sunday night to cater for his supporters, many of whom travelled to Manchester on Saturday to watch the Cherries beat Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford.

Billam-Smith was the aggressor, constantly forcing Masternak on to the ropes in round one and using his larger frame to lean on his rival in an attempt to drain the energy, although his eagerness to close the distance saw him walk on to a looping right in round two as Masternak started to settle in.

Trainer Shane McGuigan urged Billam-Smith to get behind his jab when he returned to the corner and he put those words into action during round three, finding his range and then closing the distance with greater caution before unloading with combinations.

By round four, the champion was starting to swell around the left eye and Masternak began targeting that area, with his right hand finding a home regularly.

Rhythm was an issue for Billam-Smith and he went back to basics for round five, tucking his chin down on his chest and engaging in the clinch in the hope of landing some short shots in close.

Masternak was the more mobile of the two as the fight reached the midway point, shifting around the ring trying to create angles for his attacks with Billam-Smith looking a little flat-footed.

Billam-Smith started to add more variety in his attacks through round seven and his work on the body came good with Masternak showing signs that he was running out of steam.

It ended in confusing circumstances as Masternak was slow to get up from his stool for round eight and, after complaints from Billam-Smith over the delay, Latham waved the bout off.

Masternak appeared to have suffered an injury to his ribs as a result of Billam-Smith’s decision to change his game plan.