Michael Ayers retained his IBO lightweight crown at the end of another stirring battle with Manchester's Wayne Rigby at the Wembley Conference Centre last night.

Ayers, pushed all the way by his determined opponent, took a unanimous verdict by margins of 115-113 (twice) and 116-113 on the judges' cards. While it may not quite have matched their fight of the year in 2000 it was still compelling action between two failed athletes, with Ayers' accuracy winning him the day.

The champion's defence was tight early on and workrate good as Rigby sought to settle into a rhythm. Rigby's stamina kept him going, though Ayers was beginning to look tired in the later stages. However, Ayers managed to summon up a big last-round effort in case he needed to win that final round to preserve his title. As it happened, Ayers had a little bit more in the bank in terms of points before that non-stop final three minutes.

Filed by Pat Nugent