BRITAIN’S Liam Smith’s brave challenge against Jaime Munguia ended ultimately in defeat, but he asked serious questions of Mexico’s WBO super-welterweight champion at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday.

The Liverpudlian began well. He threaded his right cross over the Mexican’s jab and picked out openings. He made Munguia look easy to hit, bursting forward with a one-two combination.

The Mexican opened up, winging his left hook to the body. But Smith still countered him with hard right hands, catching him over the top. Liam ducked a one-two to sweep a left hook into Munguia’s jaw – the champion felt that blow. The first quarter of the fight was Smith’s. But Munguia came back.

In the fourth round he buzzed Liam with a massive left hook and pressed forward aggressively, throwing dangerous shots. With brute force in the fifth, he began to hammer punches through Smith’s defence.

Munguia looked massive in the ring and it was hard for Smith to put a dent in him. Munguia maintained his assault and Smith found himself soaking up punishment. His counters began to miss as Smith boxed to keep the world champion at bay.

At the end of the sixth round a left hook wobbled and dropped the Briton, a former world champion, to his knees. In the next round Liam jabbed ferociously to fight his way off the ropes. But the champion put his weight behind a straight right to keep Smith on the back foot.

By the end of the eighth round, the pace of Munguia’s attack slowed and Liam began to heave combinations back at him. The next round Munguia waded on to inside, his uppercuts and hooks crashed through to the mark. Smith swayed beneath the pressure, but he did not fall. Smith swung his upper body to manoeuvre back from shots before standing his ground and belting Munguia with combinations of his own.

Jaime Munguia

Down the stretch, full of confidence, Munguia let his hands go. In the 11th Smith caught Munguia out with a left hook over his gloves. He slammed in a right hook and punctured his guard with a let hook screwing up to the body.

Munguia was all offence, letting his fists fly. He let the punches coming back at him through too but shrugged them off. Brave until the end, Smith endured heavy shots and swung back, boring forward on to the front foot himself. He landed the final shots of the right, a straight one-two. But it wasn’t enough. Munguia won a unanimous decision to defend his WBO super-welterweight title with scores of 116-111, 119-110, and 119-108.

“I feel good. I’m happy. I think that the people liked it,” Munguia said“I didn’t win by knockout like I always want. This is the fifth decision win of my career. But I fought a good opponent who was strong. I came in very well prepared. There are no excuses and we will keep learning because this gave me a lot of experience. I’m only 21 years old and I will keep working in the gym. Liam Smith is a warrior. He is strong. There were times where I really landed punches, which really backed him up. He’s very strong and can take a punch, so I have no excuses. I was always looking for the knockout. I always looked for the fight, and I went in there like a true Mexican. I think going these 12 rounds will serve me as experience.”