Split decision a surprise as Paul Appleby defeat floors prospect of an all-Scottish super-featherweight world title fight

THE prospect of an historic world title contest between two Scottish boxers next year evaporated on Saturday night when Paul Appleby failed his audition as a potential challenger to WBO super-featherweight champion Ricky Burns.

In the chief supporting contest at the Braehead Arena, Appleby suffered only the second defeat of his professional career as he found himself on the wrong end of a split decision in his WBO Intercontinental super-featherweight title bout against Joseph Laryea of Ghana.

The 23-year-old from South Queensferry, who had been successfully rebuilding his career following the loss of the British featherweight crown to Martin Lindsay in Belfast back in April 2009, was unable to cope with the accurate and persistent jab of the taller Laryea.

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The 25-year-old African, although troubled by some body shots from Appleby in the early stages, found the young Scot surprisingly easy to hit.

Appleby's badly marked face told its own story at the end of 12 gruelling rounds, his cause not helped by a horrendous cut over his left eye caused by a head clash in the tenth round.

Laryea looked a clear winner to most observers but surprisingly only got the verdict on a split decision. Hungarian judge Zoltan Enyedi saw enough from Appleby to score 115-113 in his favour, but there was no complaint from the Scot's camp as Noel Monnet, of France, and American Tom Miller ruled in Laryea's favour by 116-112 and 117-111 respectively.

It is a major setback for Appleby who had been promised a shot at Burns early next year if he had won. He must now regroup once more while the highly capable Laryea may now emerge as Burns' next challenger.

The Braehead undercard also saw former WBO super-featherweight champion Alex Arthur continue his push for a title shot in the lightweight division. The Edinburgh 32-year-old floored his Isle of Wight opponent Jay Morris in the sixth and seventh sessions of their eight-round contest, securing a convincing 80-72 points victory from referee Victor Loughlin.

"I'm still a bit rusty, you could see that tonight," admitted Arthur, "but I was shaking more and more of the rust off as the fight went on. Morris is a welterweight, so it was good to be able to put him down twice. When I fight at the lightweight championship limit, you will see the power of my punches having even greater effect.I reckon I maybe need one more warm-up fight before fighting for a title, although if the right opportunity comes along I could take it in my next fight."

There was a successful professional debut for Callum Johnson, winner of the light-heavyweight gold medal for Scotland at this year's Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

The Lincolnshire-based boxer overwhelmed his Belfast opponent Phillip Townley with a series of heavy body shots, the action called off after one minute 34 seconds of the second round.

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Johnson, operating under the guidance of former world featherweight champion Naseem Hamed, was warmly received by the Braehead crowd.

"It's been my dream since I was a little boy to fight professionally in Scotland," said Johnson, "and I'm absolutely buzzing after that win. I want to keep fighting on bills in Scotland and eventually win a world title here."