TOMMY MCCARTHY may be just one win away from landing a third fight against Chris Billam-Smith.

That is the Belfast fighter’s thinking as he prepares to face Michal Cieslak for the European cruiserweight title in September or October.

McCarthy won the EBU belt three years ago defeating Bilal Laggoune. One successful defence against Alexandru Jur was followed by a split decision loss to Chris Billam-Smith in July 2021. Nine months later the pair rematched one another but the Englishman won by eighth round knockout to end the rivalry.

Wins number 19 and 20 came for McCarthy last year against Pauls Vilbergs in Latvia and Reinis Porozovs in Belfast.

The 28-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph he realises the magnitude of the Cieslak fight where McCarthy is the mandatory challenger.

“This a huge fight for me. It’s the pathway to a world title fight. It’s the chance to become a two-time European champion and also it’s essentially a world title eliminator,” said McCarthy.

“I know this is going to be a tough fight but then at this level they all are. He’s a guy who has fought twice for the world title — lost to Lawrence Okolie and Ilunga Makabu so he’s a world level fighter and we’re kinda in the same boat. We’re both looking to get that world title shot.

“It just feels like things are falling into place for me… I have this chance now to enjoy a fairytale ending to my career.”

McCarthy sees no reason why a third fight can’t be made with Billam-Smith who won the WBO belt against Lawrence Okolie last month.

“Most people thought I won the first fight, he obviously won the second and if I have the European title then why not go for a third fight?”

Cieslak bounced back from a points defeat to Okolie in February 2022 by winning his next three fights against Enrico Koelling, Krzysztof Twardowski and then for the European title two months ago beating Dylan Bregeon with a fourth-round knockout.