Fighting English champion Matty Askin in a British cruiserweight title final eliminator, McCarthy was downed twice in the fourth but recovered well for a strong finish. It would not be enough however, and the Belfast big man fell to a unanimous points decision.
Askin, to his immense credit, proved just too slippery and elusive for the former elite amateur – who was forced into chasing for much of the bout.
A massively quiet opening round saw McCarthy throw a grand total of three punches, and Askin throwing few more, with neither landing anything of note. So quiet was the opener, the referee brought the two together to order more activity
The second was certainly livelier,and McCarthy landed a snappy jab immediately. Askin would fire back with three big backhands, before the Irishman scored some nice potshots down the stretch
While the second probably slipped past him, McCarthy was the aggressor in the third, taking the centre of the ring, although with little substance landing from either
It all went wrong for the Lenadoon fighter in the fourth, with him hitting the canvas for the first time in his career – and soon after for the second time. While the first trip to the floor seemed innocuous enough, McCarthy was badly hurt the second time following a barrage of shots and was essentially saved by the bell.
Askin began the fifth fast, looking for a finish, before the still-dazed McCarthy landed a huge left hook of his own to hurt the Blackpool man badly and see out the round.
Both looking to recover following being hurt previous, the sixth stanza was an understandably quiet one, with Askin, whose footwork was brilliant throughout, pot-shotting from the outside.
The English 27 year old had a very good seventh round, countering the onrushing McCarthy with aplomb, and this would continue into the eighth before the Ulsterman grabbed the initiative with a strong second half of the frame.
The tide seemingly continued to turn in the ninth, and McCarthy had Askin hurt badly in the final seconds of the round with a huge left hook that had him out on his feet
McCarthy continued to press against the circling Askin for much of the tenth and the eleventh, before the penultimate round sprang into action in the final minute when a shot veered low from the Irishman. Some heated exchanges ensued and plenty of showmanship.
McCarthy, who turned 26 at the start of the month, needed a big final round, but found himself frustrated by his experienced opponent who managed to cling on repeatedly to see out the fight and claim the win.
The scorecards read 116:111 x2, 117:110, in favour of Askin. While overly wide, it is hard to argue that the wrong man won.
The disappointing loss sees McCarthy drop to 9(5)-1(0), though he will surely learn from the experience, in what was his first twelve rounder and just his second time past eight. Weighing in at a career-lightest 197lbs, McCarthy certainly showed good conditioning and brilliant powers of recovery which bodes well for the future.
Askin improves to 21(13)-3(1)-1 and has now secured himself a fight for the vacant British title with Welshman Craig Kennedy to take place some time next year.
Earlier on in Manchester, McCarthy’s fellow Belfast man and stablemate Anto Cacace moved to 15(7)-0. The BBBoC Celtic super featherweight champion easily outpointed (60:54) Nicaraguan Leonel Hernandez.