Gary Fox showed good head movement to close the distance and landed some heavy looking shots throughout the contest.  He did occasionally spoil some of his work being too close but the result was never in doubt and the man from Fishburn deservedly won the opening contest of the evening 40-36.

Sunderland’s Isaac MacLeod started his seventh pro bout as though he had a point to prove.  In all honesty, he looked a little wild in the first thirty seconds or so as he packed a lot into every shot he through.

From that point on though, seemingly having got it out of his system, he produced a composed boxing performance to win every round against Ryan Hardy of Sheffield.  The Steel City is renowned for producing unorthodox fighters and Hardy certainly falls into that category.  He went through his full repertoire on Saturday evening which included some leg shimmies and dance moves that Ed Balls can only dream of.  MacLeod deserves credit though as he refused to get drawn in to these antics and worked the body and head well to ensure a 60-54 victory.

Al Hamidi has been in with an array of British talent and has the ability to make quality fighters look ordinary.  With that in mind, Jay Hughes looked very good indeed in just his third professional outing.  He boxed well from the centre of the ring and kept his composure despite Hamidi’s awkward style and movement.  This sort of win (40-36 on the ref’s card) will hold him in good stead going forward.

Boxing under the stewardship of Neil Fannan, one of Hartlepool’s boxing brothers, Peter Cope cruised to a four round shutout of tough nut Fonz Alexander.  Alexander went six rounds with the heavy handed Jeff Saunders so is no mug, but he didn’t have an answer for the boxing skills and tactics of Cope.  The former Northern Area Lightweight champion peppered Alexander with jabs and popped in and out of range superbly.  The final round saw Alexander come out aggressively and Cope was happier to spoil in close but despite the closer nature of the fourth, the ref scored the fight 40-36 in favour of Cope who moves to 14-3 with the win.

The chief support certainly played its part in exciting the crowd.  Darren Richardson won the International Challenge Belt in sensational style with a first round stoppage of the normally durable Luke Keleher.  Richardson wobbled his man early in the encounter and looked to unload but it wasn’t to be.  Yet. After Keleher covered up and slipped shots well, Richardson, fighting under the tutelage of Davey Binns took a step back.  Not long after a sweet right hand had Halifax’s Keleher on the canvas for the first time.  A second visit followed soon after, this time courtesy of a left hand.  Keleher gamely rose to his feet again but following a sustained barrage against the ropes Richardson was the new champion.  In truth, the ref possibly could’ve waved off the contest earlier but he made the correct call in time.

Both men came out flying for the main event of the evening.  With the vacant Northern Area Lightweight title on the line, there was a lot at stake for both men.  It appeared to be a battle of the jab in the early going, which seemingly favoured Lewis Ritson.  The Forest Hall boxer demonstrated near perfect technique to snap out his left hand, and keep his opponent from Seaham at bay.  The second round was much closer as Ellison’s high workrate and volume got him right back into it.  There was strong argument that Ritson took this round as well as the first, through the cleaner shots but he was given plenty to think about.  The third round wasn’t quite as close as the second but still not a lot in it.  This looked like a fight where one boxer (Ritson) could easily be three points to the good without truly dominating the contest.  That would change.  Ellison managed the strange trick of  looking tired and growing into the fight at the same time.  He continued to set a phenomenal tempo but his technique began to falter and his shots weren’t packing the same pop during towards the end of the fifth.

By the sixth Ritson was enjoying himself and his bodywork started to take its toll. He had looked relaxed throughout, despite the high pace but he switched from in control to ruthless within seconds.  Ritson appeared to have more snap to his shots for the majority of the contest and that ultimately signalled the end for Ellison.  A vicious bodyshot sent Ellison on his way down in a neutral corner.  When he was one a knee Ritson landed a solid hook to the head but escaped a warning.  In defence of Ritson, the ref handed signalled the knockdown (as he appeared slightly unsighted as to whether Ellison was actually down).  The confusion was brief as Ellison was given a count and made it back to his feet.  When Jordan Ellison hit the deck for the second time not long after it appeared as though the end was on its way.  Even when his corner were debating throwing in the towel and he was taking punishment on his feet, Ellison refused to wilt and somehow survived a torrid sixth round to see the bell.

As the seventh began, Ritson’s corner could be heard to advise him to “start again” and not get caught up in the action of the previous session.  They needn’t have worried.  Continuing to set his range with his textbook jab, he soon found the target with another emphatic hook to the midsection.  This time Ellison could do no more and was counted out as he writhed painfully on the canvas.  After the stoppage the beaten man was given medical attention but safely made it to his feet to a deserved standing ovation.  The official time of the stoppage was 1:35 and the referee had the new champion 68-66 when the contest came to an end.

With regards to the winner, I honestly believe Lewis Ritson is one of the most talented boxers in the region and he systematically dismantled one of the toughest.  It will be very interesting to see how Phil Jeffries looks to match him and what exactly 2017 holds for the Sandman.  He has a 50% stoppage rate from 12 professional wins but showed another side tonight, boxing at a high pace, while still maintaining composure, compared to a more relaxed style seen in the past.

Onwardf and upwards for the Sandman, and seemingly for North East boxing.

“Christmas Cracker” pulled by Fighting Chance and Phil Jeffries