Chris Billam-Smith’s first defence of the WBO cruiserweight title was a tough one, and he was fully embroiled in a dogfight with Mateusz Masternak before the Pole retired from battle before the start of the eighth round at the Bournemouth International Centre.
Billam-Smith (19-1, 13KOs) was crowned champion at his beloved Bournemouth FC in May, dropping Lawrence Okolie three times en route to a majority verdict win, while Masternak (47-6, 31KOs) came in an experienced campaigner, and a former European champion on a run of six straight wins.
Both men had good success with their jab in the first frame, and it was a frantic start, with the visitor having a strong second round by being first to the punch. It was proving to be a gruelling contest after just three rounds, and Billam-Smith was in deep, being easily hit by Masternak in the fourth as the challenger was growing in confidence.
The champion was showing signs of fatigue as early as round five, and he was struggling to deal with the trenches that Masternak was taking him to, nailed with a right hand towards the end of the sixth.
Masternak was cut over his left eye in a scrappy seventh that Billam-Smith came on strong in with body shots and much better work, and, in a stunning turn of events, Masternak was retired in his corner before the end of the eighth, and it looked as though he had damaged his ribs in the heat of battle.
Whittaker and Price shine on undercard
The undercard featured 2020 Olympic Silver medallist Ben Whittaker (5-0, 4KOs), and he was his usual, flashy self as he knocked out Stiven Leonetti Dredhaj (11-3-1, 3KOs) in the fourth round of their light heavyweight meeting.
Whittaker scored a third round knockdown, as the visitor took a knee from an accumulation of punches, and a round later, a right-left combination flattened Dredhaj, and the fight was over.
Lee Cutler (14-1, 7KOs) took the vacant English super welterweight title in a breathless points win against Kingsley Egbunike (8-3-1, 1KO). Cutler prevailed by two scores of 97-93, and a third at 96-95.
Michael McKinson (26-1, 4KOs) continued his rebuild since losing to Vergil Ortiz Jr in August last year, and the Portsmouth man took the vacant WBC International welterweight title with a dominant points win against Musah Lawson (11-1, 9KOs). McKinson ran out a winner by 100-90 on two cards, and 99-91 on a third.
Lauren Price (6-0, 1KO) continued her education, taking an eight round win on the cards against Silvia Bortot (11-4-1, 3KOs). Bortot took Mikaela Mayer the full ten rounds in September, and Price took every round of this welterweight meeting, coming through an 80-72 winner.
At bantamweight, Fran Hennessy (2-0, 1KO) went the six round distance for a first time, and she took a 59-55 verdict against Argentina’s Lucrecia Belen Arrieta (6-6, 0KOs).