Martin Murray edged past old rival Sergey Khomitsky at the ExCeL Arena in London before it was revealed he would fight for a world title in February.
Murray produced a very flat performance against veteran Khomitsky, falling behind in the fight before establishing a lead after the halfway stage on an eight rounder.
The fight had been postponed from three weeks ago when the St Helens middleweight was struck down with a virus, but he refused to blame the illness on a substandard performance.
"I was very flat," he told Sky Sports after getting a 77-75 verdict. "It was good to get eight rounds in and blow the cobwebs off for a big fight next year but it was a very disappointing performance.
"I'm not going to blame anything on the virus but it is quite hard getting up for the fight after last time. It was the same after fighting Felix Sturm. I was fit but the performance was flat."
Promoter Ricky Hatton then told Sky that a deal had been made for a world title fight next year, although he wouldn't reveal who it would be against.
"There'll be a big announcement next week," said Hatton. "We've secured Martin a great opportunity and I think he's going to be third time lucky. Next year is going to be his year."
Murray has twice failed to win a world title in controversial circumstances - drawing with Felix Sturm before losing a narrow decision to Sergio Martinez in April.
Rumours are that Gennady Golovkin is about to be elevated to 'super champion' status by the WBA, leaving Murray to fight for the newly vacant 'regular' strap.
Another middleweight, Anthony Ogogo, returned from a five month hiatus to make it 4-0 with a one-sided points victory over the game but over-faced Dan Blackwell.
British super-middleweight champion Paul Smith was also in a six-rounder and came out a convincing winner against Jamie Ambler, who nevertheless proved a gutsy foe.