MANCHESTER, ENGLAND -- Maurice Hooker silenced Terry Flanagan's hometown crowd with a split decision victory to lift the vacant WBO world junior welterweight title on Saturday.
In his first fight since relinquishing the WBO lightweight belt and stepping up a division, Englishman Flanagan suffered nasty cuts by his right eye and down his forehead that proved crucial in deciding the outcome.
Hooker (24-0-3, 16 KOs), in his first world title attempt, did better as the fight went on, and it was enough for him to earn scores of 115-113, 117-111, with the other judge scoring it 117-11 to Flanagan (33-1, 13 KOs) at the Manchester Arena.
It was a messy fight that was hard to score at times, with Hooker having success on the counter as Flanagan went for a stoppage late on.
Hooker is a sparring partner of fellow American Terence Crawford, who gave up the WBO title to challenge Jeff Horn for the WBO welterweight belt in Las Vegas later on Saturday.
Now Hooker, 28, from Dallas, holds the same belt Crawford did not so long ago after he backed up his confident prefight talk.
But Flanagan looked in control early on.
After 14 months of inactivity due to fight postponements and injuries, Flanagan looked in tremendous condition and he began faster.
Flanagan landed a left hook from close range at the end of the second round and another left went straight through Hooker's guard in the third.
Hooker was better in the fourth round as he made good use of his reach advantage and landed right hands.
Flanagan, who was fortunate to escape without a warning for leaning in with his head early on, was plunged into crisis early in the seventh round when he suffered two cuts caused by a head clash.
Flanagan's face was a mask of blood, with cuts by his right eye and down his forehead, but it had a positive effect as he suddenly went all out for the stoppage.
Flanagan had more purpose, perhaps worried he was on borrowed time with the cuts, and landed a series of blows with Hooker on the ropes in the eighth round.
Flanagan's corner did a good job with the cut and the Englishman kept bouncing forward in a messy fight that turned into a bloody brawl. Not many of Flanagan's punches were clean and Hooker had his best spell in the later rounds.
On the undercard, English heavyweight Nathan Gorman halted Irishman Sean Turner in three rounds.
Gorman (12-0, 10 KOs), 21, who is trained by Ricky Hatton in Manchester, floored Turner (12-3, 8 KOs) with an uppercut at the end of the second before finishing the job in the third with a succession of right hooks.
Promising English middleweight Mark Heffron (20-0, 16 KOs), 26, launched a ferocious attack to stop Andrew Robinson (21-4-1, 6 KOs) in the sixth round, moments after being warned for a low blow.