Boxing

Tommy McCarthy eye injury delays date for rematch with Chris Billam-Smith

Anthony Joshua in action against Oleksandr Usyk in the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO World heavyweight title match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday night
Andy Watters

TOMMY McCarthy is still recovering from the cut (which required 17 stitches) he sustained in his first meeting with Chris Billam-Smith but hopes to be fit for a second meeting with the Shane McGuigan-trained cruiserweight later this year.

A rematch has been agreed between the pair after Billam-Smith edged their EBU, Commonwealth and British title showdown on July 31. With Carl Frampton in his corner, McCarthy looked to have done enough to win at Matchroom HQ that night but England's Billam-Smith won an engrossing contest on split decision.

“Tommy got an infection in his eye where he got the stitches,” said McCarthy's manager Mark Dunlop, who was in Hamburg last weekend to watch heavyweight Nick Campbell take his record to 3-0 with a knockout win over Pawel Sowik.

“He has to see the doctor every week so there's no point in saying: ‘We'll fight before Christmas' if he can't get the go-ahead. He'll start training again soon and hopefully that (the rematch) will come but last week his eye was still swollen.

“Billam-Smith said he would give him a rematch but until Tommy is 100 per cent we can't organise anything. I still think Tommy won the first fight, it was nip-and-tuck the whole way but I thought he pulled away over the last two or three rounds.”

Meanwhile, James Tennyson, now trained by Dan Boyle, is working towards a return to the ring before the end of this year. Tennyson's plans for a lightweight world title challenge went up in smoke, at least in the short term, when he was knocked out by Mexican Jovanni Straffon in May.

Weight-drained Tennyson was caught in a toe-to-toe battle with Straffon in round one and for once the heavy-handed Poleglass native, came off second best and he could move up to light-welterweight (10 stone) for his comeback.

“We don't know if he can make lightweight again,” said Dunlop.

“We're just going to see how the weight comes off him. He has a nutritionist on board now so we're going to see how that goes before we make any call. Rather than see him struggle with weight, I'd like to see him be strong because he'd still be a decent-sized light-welterweight.”

Elsewhere, in addition to the Chris Eubank junior-headlined Wembley Arena bill, there are seven small hall shows scheduled for Belfast and throughout England this weekend.

Alongside the fight night at the Devenish Complex in Belfast, professional boxing cards are due to run in Tower Hamlets (London), Bracknell, Wolverhampton, Derby, Oldham and Rotherham meaning that promoters are facing problems bringing in opponents for their fighters.

According to reports, the pool of journeymen operating in the UK has dried up and hard-pressed matchmakers are being forced to go to the extra expense of sourcing opponents from mainland Europe.

Experienced manager Kellie Maloney said last week that she had “never known a time like this”.

“Small-hall promoters can't afford to run shows and that means fighters' careers are at a standstill,” she said.

WHAT do they say about the best laid plans? Anthony Joshua's have gone awry and his future now looks uncertain after he was broken down and battered by Oleksandr Usyk over 12 rounds on Saturday night.

Frank Warren says he can't see Joshua's long-awaited ‘Battle of Britain' with Tyson Fury happening now and, as for a rematch with Usyk: Can anyone see a different outcome? The ‘AJ' script has been well and truly ripped to shreds - that's sport.

Joshua shrugged his shoulders and bowed his head after Usyk claimed the WBA, IBF and WBO titles with a unanimous decision win. Ukrainian Usyk gave away three inches in height and over a stone in weight but gave Joshua a boxing lesson and although the Watford heavyweight improved in the middle rounds, he was never really in the fight.

He looked gun-shy and uncertain and couldn't match Usyk's movement or output. Tactically he was unable to get to grips with his opponent's elusive southpaw style and couldn't bring his punching power to bear so the result was a comfortable points win for Usyk and, if they do meet again, the Ukrainian will fancy his chances of a stoppage win.

He was without doubt the better fighter and Carl Frampton was among the former world champions who questioned AJ's conservative tactics in front of 66,000 people at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Joshua showed admirable class after defeat, acknowledging he was given "a lesson" before revealing he was relishing getting back to the gym to learn from his mistakes.

"I can't go back and sulk, that's wasting time, I'm going back to look at ways I can improve,” he said.

“Straight away I've already been watching the fight and figuring out what I could have done better." There is a rematch clause, one Joshua indicated he will exercise straight away.

Usyk would like to have the second fight - which could take place next February or March - on home soil at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev although Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn shot down the idea from a business perspective, reasoning that it would likely be back in the UK again.

Joshua batted away questions about his gameplan but while he seemed genuinely optimistic about facing Usyk again, the former two-time world heavyweight champion did not disclose any specifics of what he would do differently.

It was instead Joshua's long-time trainer Rob McCracken who said: "You've got to apply better pressure with a fighter like that and not give him too much time. That's really what should happen. I've got no doubts that if (Joshua) applies himself, which he will, then he'll get a great performance in the rematch. Anthony will have learned loads."

So where does that leave Joshua's long-awaited duel with Tyson Fury? They were so close to finalising a historic bout that would have had all four belts up for grabs earlier this year.

But the intervention of a United States arbitrator, who ruled Fury had to defend his WBC title in a trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder, scuppered that and led to Joshua deciding to take on mandatory challenger Usyk.

Fury can uphold his end of the bargain by defeating Wilder again next month but a mouth-watering 'Battle of Britain' is currently on ice.

Fury's co-promoter Frank Warren said: "I don't see it happening now.

"If it did happen, what would Tyson have done to him? It wouldn't have gone 12 rounds. Tyson would have destroyed him. Absolutely. The unification fight was there, such a big fight. Heart-breaking. What would Tyson Fury had done to Joshua? A better chin, bigger puncher..."

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Boxing