Jason Sosa proved too strong for a brave Stephen Smith as he defended his WBA super-featherweight title in a thrilling contest.
The Liverpool fighter gave it his all and came on strong late on but just fell short as he was floored and cut badly in a pulsating encounter in Monte Carlo.
It was the 31-year-old’s second crack at world honours having lost out to Jose Pedraza for the IBF crown earlier this year and he gave another valiant and dramatic performance, but it was Sosa who claimed the victory, winning by scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 116-112.
Sosa started the fight the stronger, working behind a high guard and landing several cuffing blows that quickly made ‘Swifty’ aware of the champion’s undoubted power.
Things got worse for Smith in the second as he was on the floor early on in the round. A Sosa left hand caused the knockdown, although both fighters’ legs were seemingly tangled up.
The American inflicted further punishing damage as he made a turbulent finish to the round with a succession of damaging hooks landing.
In the third, Smith continued to struggle to keep a rampant Sosa off and again the American delivered an explosive period of action, throwing a fast and punishing flurry of combinations that brought about a nasty cut above Smith’s eye.
The referee briefly stopped the action to request the ringside doctor to examine the cut and after being cleared to continue, the Liverpudlian stood and traded as a shootout ensued.
A big punch from Smith then followed as both fighters traded relentlessly, swinging in big hooks in a superb round of action.
In the middle rounds of the fight, ‘Swifty’ started to gain some momentum in the contest as he used his quicker footwork to move out of range and push the American onto the back foot, although sharp shots continued to come back his way.
The pair continued to trade ferociously in the eighth round and a right hook from a bloodied Smith had Sosa clinging onto the challenger.
Sosa was proving a gritty and powerful champion though as Smith’s face continued to look a bloody mess and the punishing hooks were regularly landing for both men in the gruelling later rounds.
In the 11th, Sosa seemed to up the tempo again and caught Smith with a succession of heavy shots, but again the courageous Smith came back strong and went toe-to-toe with the American.
Eventually, Sosa scored a deserved victory and Smith cut a frustrated figure afterwards, saying: “I’m not going to stand here and give any more excuses, a bad start cost me.
“I tried my best getting into the fight, but I think I lost it early. I was forcing things and that’s not me. I believe I’ve got a lot left and I’ve got to regroup.”