North East boxing came back with a bang on Friday night, as Joe Maphosa challenged Craig Derbyshire for the vacant English super-flyweight title.

The boy from ‘boro (technically Thornaby) battled hard yet came up short against the game Craig Derbyshire, of Doncaster. With Sunny Edwards having moved onto world titles, the domestic scene has now been left wide open and tonight’s victor will be as confident as ever, that he belongs in that discussion.

Trainer Imran Naeem had spoken of Joe’s maturity ahead of this crunch clash, and will be pleased his charge managed to hang in there against a relentless opponent.

A fantastic first round saw the home fighter dropped and Derbyshire suffer a cut above above right eye. With it all to do, Maphosa looked to get back to his boxing as the contest wore on.

Derbyshire, however, had other ideas and pressured his skilful opponent for most of the fight. Maphosa fought gamely but was constantly on the backfoot and was deducted a point for excessive use of the head, late on.

This didn’t ultimately affect the outcome as Derbyshire rightly claimed the vacant strap with split scores of 97-92, 93-95, 96-93. A fantastic win and performance in front of many travelling fans.  Derbyshire has done things the hard way in the paid ranks and is now reaping the rewards.

A raucous atmosphere had been steadily building for over an hour before the show opened with a local derby between Anth Ornsby and career apple-cart up-setter, Jordan Ellison. Those in attendance were treated to a Prizefighter style shootout for 4 rounds, after which Seaham’s Ellison was declared the winner, 39-37. Ornsby can consider himself unlucky – as he boxed well in spots – but the Road Warrior landed the cleaner shots to secure the win, living up to his much deserved moniker once more.

The very well travelled Fonz Alexander was next into the red corner but couldn’t complete the trick against Darlington prospect Henry Thomas. Alexander carried a significant weight advantage but Thomas caught him with a clean 2 punch combination to end the first round, and edge it on our scorecard. He continued to box and move well, although the contest never really caught ablaze.

The highlight was probably a confetti cannon accidentally going off at the start of the final round. Thomas managed to avoid distraction and take the contest 40-36.

Jordan Barker-Porter looked very sharp on her professional debut, tidily out-boxing her opponent for 3 rounds before piling on the pressure in the 4th. The stoppage wasn’t forthcoming however and would’ve been harsh, if truth be told. 40-36 could not be disputed though and signalled a comprehensive victory for the debutant. The future certainly looks bright for “JBP” and with the backing of MTK Global, she will definitely be one to watch.

Another boxer making their professional debut was Ewan McKenzie. He barely stopped throwing combinations for the full 12 minutes. Another comfortable debut win and if McKenzie was looking to impress, he certainly succeeded! The referee obviously agreed and scored this one 40-35, seeing enough for a 10-8 round although I’m not sure where exactly.

The first stoppage of the night came courtesy of Middlesbrough man Michael Webster. The powerful cruiserweight dispatched Pawel Strykowski after 1:35 of the very first round. A sensational stoppage which sent his fans down the A19 happy. Anyone who delivers knockouts on local shows has the potential to be a very valuable commodity and Webster fits the bill to a tee.

Adopted Geordie, Alex “The Black Diamond” Farrell shone bright once again, dismantling the durable Serge Ambomo in 6 rounds. The chief support contest was a one-sided affair from start to finish, with the cleaner work coming from the Greek (Farrell).

Ambomo looked dangerous – particularly when he loaded up with a left hook – but was often made to appear crude and reckless by a watertight defence. Farrell stepped up his assault toward the end of the 5th to back up the normally immovable Ambomo, before stopping him during the next.

Calm and composed, cool and classy, Farrell’s stock rises with each performance and it was a pleasure to see him back in the ring under the tutelage of Dave Binns.

All in all, a bittersweet return to boxing for the North East.  Not the result the home fans wanted but it was bloody good to be back!

Smokin’ Joe in firefight as Derbyshire defeats Maphosa
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