Callum Smith beats John Ryder on points to retain WBA super-middleweight title
Callum Smith fended off a spirited challenge by John Ryder to win by unanimous decision and retain his WBA super-middleweight title in Liverpool.
Hopes were high in Smith's home city for a big win but he was pushed hard by the Londoner and it seemed after 12 rounds the decision would be close.
However, the three judges scored it 117-111, 116-112 and 116-112 to Smith.
It means Smith, 29, defended the title for a second time after beating Hassan N'Dam in New York in June.
"I was probably sulking because I knew it was not my best performance," Smith, who extended his unbeaten record to 27-0, told BBC Radio 5 live.
"I thought it was a little bit too easy early on and I don't know if it was his game plan to finish strong and it made it awkward.
"I am very disappointed in myself, I am a perfectionist. I knew it was close but I never thought I was behind."
Smith, who beat George Groves to become World Boxing Super Series champion last year, had been the 1-25 on favourite to win before the fight with some bookmakers, such was the level of expectation that he would see out a comfortable win.
But, after a steady start by the champion, southpaw Ryder started to make things awkward for his opponent as he found a way to overcome Smith's height and reach advantage
'I've proven myself on the world scene' - Ryder
"I've gone in against the world number one there and feel like I edged it," said a defiant Ryder.
"I have proven myself on the world scene and deserve to come again. He is a great fighter but I live and breathe this. I re-locate, I am there day in and day out. We have not had the rub of the green but that is boxing.
"I feel that was harsh. I feel I forced the fight a lot and did enough to win."
By the end of the penultimate round, there was little between the two with BBC Radio 5 live co-commentator Steve Bunce having Smith 6-5 up.
Smith started the final round strongly, landing a powerful one-two and then heavy right hand but Ryder fought with all his remaining energy with the two up against ropes at the final bell.
Both Smith and Ryder's corner then celebrated, confident that they had done enough to take victory before the judges' scorecards confirmed Smith's win.
'Smith has gone to places he's never been before'
"They (Smith's team) know tonight they have got away with it," said Bunce.
"I have no problem with Smith winning by a round or two but those scores in my opinion are a little bit wide.
"This guy Ryder, the run he had in his last four fights, he probably wasn't meant to win one of them but he won four. Smith had gone to places he has never been before."