Hartlepool boxer Peter Cope loses tight points decision to Paul Hyland Jnr
Peter Cope produced the best performances of his professional career only to suffer the agony of a close points defeat to Paul Hyland Jnr in London.
The Hartlepool boxer was edged out 78-76 in a gripping lightweight contest with the unbeaten Northern Ireland prospect at the York Hall.
This reporter had Cope up comfortably at the half-way stage at the famous Eastend venue.
But the 26-year-old, from Belfast shaded the second half of the bout on Matchroom Sport's first NXTGEN show which promoted some of the UK's most promising talent.
And on this performance in front of the Sky Sports cameras, the Neil Fannan-trained southpaw will not be short of work or hope after pushing Hyland Jnr every inch of the way.
Cope connected to the favourite's chin early on with a right upper cut and landed another two rights in an exciting opener though Hyland might have just shaded it on volume.
Roared on by his noisy Irish fans on St Patrick's Day, Hyland shot out of the blocks in round two and got through with a right to the head, but back came Cope with a left to his rival's chin.
Cope followed it up with a long left, a left upper cut and a right-left combination which found the target.
And the Poolie carried it on in the third, first with some good close-quarter work followed by six stunning head shots with no reply.
Cope was enjoying plenty of success and round four was another good session, picking off Hyland with a number of right-left combinations.
Round five was a close one to score, an improved Hyland coming forward but Cope very competitive.
The contest began to change in round six as the Belfast boxer forced his opponent back and he started the seventh in a similar vein though Cope came back well at the end.
Cope found the mark in the last with a few eye-catching shots, but each time he landed, Hyland would respond with two punches.
This reporter had it 77-75 to Hyland, but with just a one round swing it would have been a draw and few could have complained if that's how it ended.
But the only view that mattered was judge Jeff Hinds who saw it 78-76. It was a cracking fight and desperately tight and while Hyland edged it, Cope showed he belonged on the Sky Sports stage.