ATLANTIC CITY, OCT. 4 -- The entrance of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson got the most applause tonight and he was only a spectator. But welterweight Kevin Pompey made a bit of his own noise in the ring before 2,600 at the Taj Mahal Hotel.

Fueled by a tenacious attack that often mesmerized his opponent, Pompey withstood a battle of attrition and patiently crafted a 12-round split decision over Suitland's Darryl Lattimore to capture the International Boxing Council welterweight title.

Clutching an ice bag on a large welt under his right eye, the H.D. Woodson High School graduate was disheartened after his loss, but lauded his opponent.

"I thought I did enough in the last round to edge him out or at worst score a draw," Lattimore (15-4) said. "I thought I was coming out on top a little bit in our exchanges. But Kevin fought a great fight and brought out the best in me."

Pompey (20-3-1) may have won the fight with a valiant effort in the final round. Sporting a large cut over his left eye, the Albany, N.Y., native managed to connect with several jabs even while hanging on to Lattimore's shoulders.

Pompey admitted that he injured his right hand during a first-round exchange. A physician examined his right thumb immediately after the fight, and said it may be broken. An X-ray will be taken Friday.

"My corner was telling me not to worry about my right hand, to just fight," Pompey said. "That hand was my game plan. Everything started with it."

Pompey said he compensated with his left and also by grabbing on to Lattimore after connecting. He also expressed a level of surprise with the decision.

"I really thought it was going to be a draw," Pompey said. "I didn't think I lost. Lattimore deserved it as much as I did."

Judges Eva Shane and Eugene Grant each scored Pompey ahead, 115-113, while Frank Brunette had Lattimore winning, 116-112.

Lattimore, 28, who vaulted into title contention with an upset victory over Victor Davis June 15, emphasized before the bout his strategy of effective counterpunching. Shunning his own weariness, he returned solid punches against Pompey, who fought back after early trouble. In the end, though, it proved not enough.

Somehow both fighters survived the ninth round, as each nearly beat the other into submission. Lattimore had established a clear advantage after five rounds, but any lead he had built eroded by the final two rounds.

After surviving two even rounds with Pompey, Lattimore dipped into his energy stores. Unleashing several combinations and a pair of solid uppercuts, Lattimore dominated the fifth round. Not to be deterred, though, Pompey proved he could take a punch.

A round later, he retaliated, landing solid blows that left Lattimore wincing and, at times, staggering. By this time both boxers started showing signs of clear exhaustion.

"This fight meant a lot to me," Lattimore said. "I guess we'll be going back to the drawing board, and hopefully we'll get another chance."