He rallied from behind in the first fight to score a TKO victory on cuts, and Liam Smith edged Liam Williams by majority decision in a WBO junior middleweight world title eliminator on Saturday in Newcastle, England.
The rematch, though, failed to live up to the expectations of their first clash.
Smith (26-1-1, 14 KO’s), 29, of Liverpool, who lost his WBO world title by ninth-round knockout to Canelo Alvarez in September 2016, will now get the chance to reclaim his old belt in 2018.
The current titleholder, four-division world champion Miguel Cotto, is expected to retire following a Dec. 2 world title defense against former welterweight contender Sadam Ali.
The judges scored the contest by scores of 117-111, 116-112, and 114-114. FightNights.com scored the bout 115-113 for Smith.
“It was a different fight this time – I think I showed a different Liam Smith,” said Smith. “I think people were surprised how I boxed him. I’ve just beat a very good boxer [again] in Liam Williams. Some people think I just walk forward, but I showed I’ve got a very good jab.”
Williams (16-2-1, 11 KO’s), 25, of Wales, who lacked the ferocity he exemplified in the first bout, had nothing but praise for Smith.
“It was a very good fight,” said Williams. “Liam Smith brought something very different from what he brought in the first fight. He turned up and had a lot more respect for me this time.”
Smith failed to make weight for their first clash when he came in at 156-pounds, two pounds over the junior middleweight limit. He suffered a cut on his right eyebrow in the third round but got the win after a double laceration to the eyelid of Williams forced referee Terry O’Connor to halt the action.
With a renewed focus, Smith has put himself back into the picture. His promoter Frank Warren, of Queensberry Promotions, is equally enthusiastic.
“Whatever happens, Liam’s next fight will be for a world title next year, 100 percent,” Warren said. “It was a good fight tonight; they were a credit to the sport, it was a very absorbing fight.”
The WBO No. 1 ranked contender is Magomed Kurbanov (12-0, 9 KO’s), 22, of Russia, who defends the International title for the first time on Dec. 15 against Akinori Watanabe. Smith could be his next opponent if victorious.