Stephen Smith: Ear injury in loss to Francisco Vargas was 'worst pain ever'
British boxer Stephen Smith says he only realised the extent of the gruesome ear injury he suffered during Saturday's fight with Francisco Vargas when he looked at the big screen and saw it "flopping everywhere".
The 32-year-old from Liverpool was told he risked losing his left ear after the super-featherweight bout was halted.
He went straight to hospital in Las Vegas, where surgeons saved his ear.
He said: "It was probably the worst pain I've ever been in."
Smith told BBC Sport he believes the injury happened during a repeated clash of heads with Mexican Vargas, 32, who won because he was ahead on points when the bout was stopped in the ninth round.
"He kept butting me in the side of my head and my ear was taking the brunt of it," he said.
"I remember thinking 'this will be sore tomorrow' because it was throbbing and stinging.
"The referee sent me to the corner and I could feel blood on my face.
"My trainer Joe had his hands on his head saying 'oh no', then I looked up at the big screen and could see my ear flopping everywhere.
"The fact it hurt in the ring says a lot because usually when the adrenaline is pumping you don't feel too much and you're getting punched in the face."
'I was just munching on pain killers'
Smith said he does not blame Vargas for the injury, and was frustrated at himself for not performing to his potential in the first half of the fight.
"He is not a dirty fighter, he is just a typical Mexican style. His head is always there or thereabouts. I caught him with my head too. It happens."
Smith said he went to hospital still wearing his blood-spattered shorts and was relieved when surgeons told him the cartilage in the ear had torn and none of the ear was missing.
However, the following day was an ordeal for the exhausted former Commonwealth featherweight champion, who was afraid of falling asleep in case he rolled on to his damaged left ear.
"I was just munching on pain killers," he said. "I didn't sleep a wink. I ended up watching the Merseyside and Manchester derbies with my coach and then a Michael Jackson tribute show.
"In the end my wife Jade sat up with me in the hotel and watched me go to sleep to make sure I didn't roll on it."
Smith is now back in the UK and planning to rest over Christmas before starting back in the gym in the new year.
Most of his stitches will dissolve, he said, and the plasma pack preventing his ear from getting blood clots can be removed next week.
"It's weird because I've had more media coverage and attention after this because of the freak injury than when I've won titles and fought well," he added.