Tommy McCarthy plans Chris Billam-Smith rematch and he'll have Carl Frampton in his corner again
WILL Barry and Shane McGuigan give the green light for a rematch between Tommy McCarthy and their man Chris Billam-Smith after the English fighter controversially shaded Saturday night's three-belt cruiserweight battle in London?
McCarthy looked to have done enough to edge a close fight but he lost on split decision. He says Eddie Hearn told him: “We'll do it again” as he was leaving the ring in disappointment following Billam-Smith's confirmation as the winner of their Commonwealth, European and British title showdown.
A physical contest with its fair share of grappling and wrestling wasn't pretty at times but it was an absorbing, exciting, full-blooded war nonetheless. Both fighters left everything in the ring but Billam-Smith took the three belts home after English judges Mark Lyson and Ian John-Lewis scored it for him – John Latham had gone for McCarthy.
John-Lewis's scoring raised many eyebrows – he gave it to Billam-Smith 116-112, the other judges had just a point in it either way.
“When I was leaving the ring Eddie told me: ‘We'll do it again' and there seems to be a big appetite for the rematch among boxing fans in Ireland and the UK,” said McCarthy.
“Before the fight I didn't have any concern about the judges, maybe I should have had? When they were calling out the scorecards I wasn't paying attention to the name – I was just listening to the numbers – and then when they said '116-112' I was thinking: ‘100 per cent, that must be me'.
“I didn't think there was any way they could give it to Billam-Smith, it was close but there's no way they could give it to Billam-Smith by that margin.”
But English judge John-Lewis went for ‘the Gentleman' by a four-round margin.
“I was shocked,” says Tommy.
“I realised then that there were three English judges and I was fighting an Englishman in England. I didn't think that was very fair. There was British, European and Commonwealth titles on the line so there should have been a European country judging, a Commonwealth country and a British judge. That would have been fair but I was very disappointed because I left it all out there and I had to dig deep and I didn't get the plaudits.”
You could argue that he did get the plaudits but Billam-Smith got the belts and McCarthy wants to get him back in the ring as quickly as possible. Will he do things differently next time?
“I knew I could hurt him, I knew I could land clean on him because his head movement and his defence isn't great,” he said.
“He's a big, strong, physical guy and he uses that to his advantage but he does take shots so I knew I could land the overhand right but landing it in the first round kind of went against me more than it went for me because for the next lot of rounds I was looking for it.
“I wobbled him in the first round with it and then I was looking for a big power shot. If I had have stuck to my boxing the early rounds and then started to throw the power shots in the latter rounds it would have been a clear win for me.
“I left it too close and I'm really annoyed at myself for doing that.”
A head clash in the middle rounds left McCarthy with a nasty gash over his right eye that subsequently required 17 stitches and it will be up to 10 weeks before he's able to spar again. He'll have to bide his time and hopes to get Billam-Smith back in the ring later this year.
“There's no other fight for me than the rematch,” said McCarthy.
“I want to get it straight away, as soon as possible. It is a bad cut and it'll take time before I can spar but if it takes until October or November, it's the fight that I want next. I don't want to have a comeback or a tune-up, I just want to go straight back in because I know what I have to do to win convincingly.”
One of the many sub-plots on the night was McCarthy including Carl Frampton in his corner. The two-weight world champion was once trained by Billam-Smith's chief-second Shane McGuigan of course and he was a brilliant addition to the ‘Mac Attack' team.
“After my defence of the European title he tweeted that he wanted to be in my corner against Billam-Smith,” McCarthy explained.
“Me and him were on the same page talking about the fight so I said: ‘We'll get Carl in'.
“He said: ‘I was only joking!' But I said: ‘Let's do it' and he got his licence and it was brilliant, it was a laugh to see how the McGuigans were reacting to him because they hadn't seen each other since the court case.”
The fly-on-the-wall picture of a stony-faced Frampton overseeing Shane McGuigan wrapping Billam-Smith's hands, with Barry standing in the background, tells a thousand words.
“Carl said the atmosphere was so tense when he went in to Billam-Smith's dressingroom – nobody talked,” said McCarthy.
“Then Barry came in to my dressingroom to watch my hands getting wrapped and me and Barry were talking away!
“It was great having Carl in the corner with all his experience. It's great having Pete Taylor there, Pete did everything in the camp and he has his own team. Usually in my corner, it's Pete, Tommy McCormack (cut man) and Mark Dunlop so this time we had Carl instead and he's somebody who has been in those situations where you have to dig deep in championship rounds. He was a great asset and he'll be back, he'll be back for the next one.”
ANTONY Cacace is now ranked number six with the World Boxing Association and manager Pat Magee says ‘The Apache' will be steered toward a world title eliminator if he comes through his British super-featherweight title defence against Leon Woodstock on August 28.
Magee has no doubt that Cacace will successfully defend the title he won against Sam Bowen in Birmingham in November 2019.
“He's working with Harry Hawkins and he's in good shape and his weight is in good shape,” said Magee.
“We're looking for him to put on a masterclass. He's nearly the last man standing in terms of British title holders and the latest news is that I've got him up to number six in the WBA ratings which means that he's ready for an eliminator after this fight.
“There'll be no slip-ups against Woodstock, he shouldn't present a problem but, then again, we've seen a lot of shocks and that is all down to the lockdown.”
Cacace was due to fight Woodstock in February but the bout was cancelled after Woodstock tested positive for Covid. That means the Belfast fighter hasn't seen action since the Bowen win in 2019 so ring-rust is the main concern for his camp.
“The guys have been out so long now, it's almost like they're coming out of retirement,” said Magee.
“That's the danger and that's why you're seeing so many strange results. It's not a question of the belt holders waiting for an opportunity, they haven't had any opportunities and some of them have switched off.”