Bolton’s Jack Cullen suffered defeat in the defence of his British and Commonwealth super middleweight titles when he lost by unanimous decision to Londoner Zak Chelli on Saturday.

Fighting on the undercard of Natasha Jonas’ main bout against Mikaela Mayer at Liverpool’s Echo Arena, ‘Little Lever’s Meat Cleaver’ took on an opponent he beat on points back in 2020, despite himself admitting he was well below-par on the night.

This time, Fulham fighter Chelli gained revenge and with it took Cullen’s belts he won so impressively at Manchester’s AO Arena against Oldham’s Mark Heffron last September.

Chelli won 116-113, 115-114, 116-112, but Cullen lasted the distance despite suffering a cut over his left eye in just the third round.

The 30-year-old will now have to take stock and prepare to bounce back from what was just a fifth defeat in 28 professional bouts.

Since the first meeting between the pair during the covid pandemic at Matchroom HQ Garden, Brentwood, Cullen’s results had been mixed with four victories and two losses.

But he had been boxing at a higher level than 26-year-old Chelli in that time, and went into the rematch full of confidence after his career-best victory against Heffron.

It was a fight full of endeavour and draining effort, but too little accuracy as it developed into a messy struggle.

Cullen did have a height advantage at 6ft 3ins tall, and initially flickered out a long jab. A hefty right demonstrated the range he could work from and Chelli, when he got inside, swung wildly but failed to land cleanly.

But the Londoner brought in power punches in the second round. His right thumped into Cullen’s head and a second time that cross hit the champion’s jaw crisply. He popped in a left hook for good measure, too.

Cullen swept a solid right uppercut in, but Chelli would bore forward, heaving through a right hook. Determined, he barrelled ahead, taking the fight to Cullen.

It was a scrappy, hard fight where scoring shots were difficult to find - let alone clean punches - with both fighters struggling to impose themselves.

Chelli slipped jabs well as Cullen came for him. The challenger led with his right and barged Cullen backwards.

A flapping left hook managed to catch Cullen full on the chin and the champion was letting control in the contest slip away from him.

He could not recover it and Chelli took victory and said: “People dream when they turn pro to fight for the British and Commonwealth titles, and now I’ve finally got it. That’s a dream come true.

Cullen had hoped to defend his titles and move on to bigger defences but now has to get together with his team, including trainers the Jennings brothers - but he will be determined to bounce back.

Speaking before the fight he said: “I want to move on to bigger and better titles.

“Me as a boxer, winning the British title isn’t the end of me.

“In my mind, as good as I am I wanna go further and climb the ladder.”