By Paul Mason
Saturday night sees Boxing return to the North East. Sky Sports televise, and Eddie Hearn for Matchroom promote at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Lewis Ritson, the British Lightweight Champion, headlines as he goes for the Lord Lonsdale belt outright in double quick time. Paul Hyland Junior stands in his way. Josh Kelly goes for his first domestic Title, fresh of a success over Carlos Molina in March. He will meet Aussie, Kris George, for the Commonwealth Welterweight Title on the bill. Here, I preview the card.
Lewis Ritson (15-0, KO9) v Paul Hyland Junior (18-0, KO7) 12 Rounds For The British Lightweight Title
In just an eight-month period, Lightweight wrecking ball Lewis Ritson has won the British Title defended it twice, and on Saturday he aims to keep the prestigious Lord Lonsdale Challenge belt for good in his hometown of Newcastle. Fellow unbeaten fighter, Paul Hyland Junior from Belfast is the final obstacle in the way of this feat.
Ritson turned professional in April 2015 at the very venue he boxes at this Saturday, the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Respected journeyman Kristian Laight was the man beaten on points over four rounds that night. After eleven straight wins, over the usual diet of experienced, well-travelled fighters, Ritson stepped up and captured the Northern Area Lightweight Title, folding Jordan Ellison with a right hook to the body in the seventh round in Houghton-le-Spring.
This set up a shot at the British Title in October 2017, and he ruthlessly annexed the Belt from the waist of newly crowned Champion, Robbie Barrett. He knocked Barrett down four times in seven rounds, forcing Barrett’s corner to throw the towel in to crown a new Champion. A star was born.
Ritson proved that the win was no one-off as he ruined John Murray inside one round in his opponent’s hometown of Manchester in his first defence of the Title. Murray was down twice before the fight was waved off in another vicious and dominating win for the Geordie. He swiftly made a second defence less than one month later against former Champion, Scott Cardle, this time at the O2 in London. Cardle came out in a whirlwind fashion to many peoples surprise. Ritson weathered the storm, bided his time, and savagely stopped Cardle in two rounds.
Ritson is fast on the rise, and even though his opponent is unbeaten this Saturday, Ritson will start as a warm favourite to continue his ascent to the top.
Paul Hyland Junior comes from fighting stock and travels to Newcastle this Saturday in the hope of becoming the new British Champion. A professional since 2014, Hyland has only really come into focus in his last few fights. After going to 15-0 with a tight points win over Peter Cope in March 2017, Hyland shot to prominence on a live Matchroom broadcast on Sky Sports on the undercard of a Ryan Burnett World Title defence.
Hyland walloped Adam Dingsdale to defeat inside a round, winning the IBF European Lightweight Title in the process. If Hyland thought this was to be the making of him he was slightly mistaken. He beat Stephen Ormond via split decision at the SSE Arena in Belfast in October last year, but the decision was met with disgust by the majority of the crowd and wider audience, feeling Ormond had done more than enough to win. Hyland dropped Ormond early, but Ormond seemingly dominated the remainder, but not in the eyes of two of the judges.
Hyland has fought once since, marking time for his Title shot by beating the 6-1 David Birmingham via fourth-round stoppage in Belfast in April.
I think Ritson will again be too hot on Saturday night, especially in front of an adoring home crowd. I expect Ritson to stop Hyland somewhere just after the halfway mark.
Kris George (14-1, KO8) v Josh Kelly (6-0. KO4) 12 Rounds For The Commonwealth Welterweight Title
Josh “PBK” (Pretty Boy Kelly) Kelly aims for his first domestic Title on the Newcastle bill, when he clashes with the Australian Commonwealth Welterweight Champion, Kris George. George seems tailor-made for Kelly to be able to showcase his precocious talents against, and Kelly has been very impressive in his career thus far.
Sunderland man Kelly was a good amateur, winning Bronze in the 2015 European Championships in Baku, and representing Great Britain in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where he suffered a last 16 defeat to fellow Matchroom fighter, and eventual Gold medallist, Daniyar Yelleussinov.
Kelly only turned professional in April last year, under the tutelage of Adam Booth, who struggles to hide his excitement for what the future holds for his charge. His bow came on the Ricky Burns v Julius Indongo undercard, outpointing Jay Byrne over six rounds.
He followed this up in Birmingham with an impressive fourth-round stoppage of Spaniard, Jony Vina, and ended 2017 with stoppage wins over Tom Whitfield (KO1) Jose Luis Zuniga (TKO2) and Jean Michel Hamilcaro (TKO6). Kelly is being moved on fast, and for good reason. His last outing came on the big Joshua v Parker bill at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, where he impressively dominated the former World Title challenger, Carlos Molina over ten rounds to pick up the WBA International Welterweight Title. It’s good to see such a risk being taken so early on in his career, and it was a test he passed with flying colours.
He will start Saturday’s contest with Kris George as an overwhelming favourite to pick up the Commonwealth crown.
Kris George makes the second defence of the Title he won back in November 2016. A professional since October 2012, George won his first seven contests before Chinese fighter, Can Xu, unanimously outpointed George, with all three cards reading 96-94 in Xu’s favour.
George has since rebuilt with seven straight wins, including widely outpointing Cameron Hammond in his hometown of Toowoomba in November 2016 to win the Commonwealth Title. He defended eleven months later against Jack Brubaker, and during the sixth round, the fight was stopped by the doctor after a nasty cut sustained by Brubaker. At the time of the stoppage, George was one point up on two cards, and four points down on the third.
George has fought once since, in March this year, knocking out Maximiliano Leonel Scalzone in one round in Toowoomba.
I think this is a fight where Kelly can ambush his opponent early, and he could get George out of there in double quick time, using his heavy and fast hands. In my opinion, Kelly gets the job done before halfway.
The Best Of The Undercard
It’s a decent undercard in Newcastle, and Gavin McDonnell (19-1-2, KO5), on the crest of a wave following a great win over Gamal Yafai last time out, clashes with former IBF Bantamweight Champion, Stuart Hall (21-6-2, KO7). Hall is firmly drinking in the last chance saloon at age 38, and I expect the fresher McDonnell to outwork and outpoint him over twelve.
Two men with identical records, Charlie Edwards (12-1, KO5) and Anthony Nelson (12-1, KO2) clash with the WBA Continental Super Flyweight Title on the line.
Arfan Iqbal (12-0, KO5) meets Simon Vallily (13-1, KO4) for the English Cruiserweight Title.
Three weight World Champion Ricky Burns has a run out on the bill in his 50th fight, and Hosea Burton and Glenn Foot also feature on a busy bill.