The Belfast cruiserweight took on WBA Inter-Continental champion Richard Riakporhe in the chief support bout on the Matchroom JD NXTGEN card at the Peterborough Arena, live on Sky Sports, where he was stopped in the fourth round.
The Lenadoon stylist began well but would unravel following some heavy shots from the crude but effective Riakporhe
For McCarthy, it was an unhappy first time back on TV since his impressive win over Jon Lewis Dickinson in May 2016 and a first major fight since his loss to Matty Askin that November.
A frustrating two years followed for McCarthy but this ended when he linked up with manager Mark Dunlop and rattled off two quick wins and jumped at this opportunity.
Riakporhe was only 2-0 at the time of the Askin fight but has been busy since, claiming the WBA Inter-Continental belt last November with a come-from-behind win over former McCarthy team-mate Sam Hyde. The English fighter was down on the cards but managed to do damage to Hyde’s eye and eventually forced an eighth-round corner retirement.
The Dillian Whyte-managed Londoner would subsequently enter the WBA rankings at #12 has enjoyed considerable hype and coverage – although McCarthy would note in the build-up that Riakporhe’s skills amounted to that of a novice.
The 29-year-old did look improved here in the skills department but it was his strength that was the telling factor.
A cagey start asawboth both paw out range-finding jabs. Riakporhe did land a handful of sharp single shots while McCarthy was able to raid in with a flurry before a big last 10 seconds which probably won him the round.
Despite his comparatively limited background in boxing, Riakporhe’s jab was looking a potent weapon and he landed it plenty in the first half of the second stanza. It would open up as the round went on and the pair traded hooks before McCarthy took the initiative, forced the champion back, and slashed in a salvo of strong shots.
McCarthy threatened in the third but the most telling punch came from Riakporhe, an instinctive left which looked to have momentarily troubled the Irishman.
The 28-year-old seemed more controlled at the start of the fourth but the wheels would come off as a succession of thudding rights sent McCarthy down. With a minute to go in the round, McCarthy looked to survive on shakey legs and endured another trip down which was ruled a slip but Riakporhe managed to corner and overpower him to claim the TKO.
The disappointing defeat sees McCarthy drop to 13(6)-2(1) while Riakporhe improves to 9(8)-0.