Local hero Lewis Ritson's career is right back on track after a European lightweight title defeat to Belgium's Francesco Patera a year ago after he scored a unanimous decision win over Liverpool's Robbie Davies Jr at the Newcastle Arena live on Sky Sports and DAZN in the USA.
The bout was an official WBA super-lightweight world title eliminator, so Ritson theoretically could go after a shot at the title held currently by American Regis Prograis who will face IBF champion, Edinburgh's Josh Taylor in a unification match which also doubles as the final of the World Boxing Super Series 140lb final, next Saturday at the O2 Arena in London.
More realistically, Ritson would face Mario Barrios who holds the WBA regular title early next year but as ever, there are other options available due to the fact that "The Sandman" is a big draw in the Northeast of England and an entertaining fighter to boot.
The fight turned out to be as hard-fought as the build-up promised. There was no love lost between these two and It spilt out as soon as the first bell sounded.
Davies Jr acquitted himself well and looked the physically stronger of the two for much of the 12 rounds, but Ritson had that extra gear that allowed him to pull away in the later rounds and seal what must be the best win of his career so far.
Boxing in the Northeast is buzzing at the moment but much of that has been down to Ritson's popularity, so his career setback against Patera took the steam off a bubbling boxing revival that saw Ritson pack out arenas with every outing. With this win and the thrilling nature of the fight, boxing in the Northeast, and in particular, in Newcastle, is back on top again.
Cheeseman vs Fitzgerald
In another very entertaining fight on Matchroom's Newcastle bill, British super-welterweight champion Ted Cheeseman of Bermondsey in South London lost his title to Preston's Scott Fitzgerald on a highly contentious 12 round unanimous decision. Cheeseman felt he was well ahead at the final bell, but for me, it was a decision that could have gone either way. I felt that Cheeseman probably should have won but he let Fitzgerald back into the fight as his pace slowed down and the Preston man stepped on the gas to win the last four rounds to make it a close call. This is a pairing that needs a rematch.
Cheeseman surprised many including Fitzgerald by using a smart boxing style instead of his usual inside pressure tactics that result in gruelling, all-out war type affairs most of the time. Perhaps the Cheeseman camp recognised the strong, heavy-handed Fitzgerald as an opponent that couldn't be beaten purely by pressure.
To be fair, Cheeseman was actually dominant through rounds 3 - 8 and the first 2 rounds maybe favoured Ted, but it was one of those fights that came down to interpretation. What was obvious was that Fitzgerald had the much heavier punching power and that won him the later rounds.
Eddie Hearn said after the result was announced that the fight that the fans wanted most was a rematch of Fitzgerald's breakthrough win over Liverpool's Anthony Fowler last March and certainly, it is a fight that needs to happen, but surely Cheeseman cannot lose his title on such a contentious decision without getting the chance to win it back first?
Martin Bakole vs Kevin Johnson
Martin Bakolie the Airdrie, Scotland based Congolese heavyweight trained by Billy Nelson joined an exclusive club when he stopped former world title challenger Kevin "Kingpin" Johnson in the 5th round on the Newcastle undercard.
Johnson has now lost 16 bouts out of 51, but only two previous opponents had managed to beat the resident of Lawrenceville, Georgia before the final bell sounded. One of those was former unified champion Anthony Joshua and the other Croatia's unbeaten prospect Petar Milas (14-0-0, 11 Ko's), so the nature of Bakolie's win was significant.
Bakolie is a pleasure to watch, he is such a clever attacking fighter. It is easy to see the influence Nelson has had on his progression to world-class. Having watched the young Scott Harrison under the guidance of father Peter and a young Billy sparring at the old Lennox Lewis College in Hackney back in the late 1990s, the clever defensive manoeuvres that took Scott to the WBO featherweight title are all there to be seen.
Bakolie will test any heavyweight in the world, probably beat them, but he needs his chance to come relatively soon in what is now looking like a packed out division.