THE inaugural Angel of the North International Box Cup, the first even of its kind for the North East, was held from May 28-29 at the Rainton Arena.

The event was organised by the Birtley boxing club and, as well as the host club’s own boxers, saw teams from the region, the Army and Ireland taking part in the competition that spanned three rings and generated a lively atmosphere in the arena.

Birtley’s new featherweight national Elite champion Jack Dryden was excellent once again. He took on the Army’s highly experienced Shamim Khan but Dryden stamped his authority on the contest from the start. The Birtley boxer closed down the elusive southpaw with speed. Accurate and fast, Dryden unleashed strong shots with his backhand. His right uppercut crashed in and Dryden began to send in thumping one-twos. Khan swung back when he could, but Dryden was setting the pace. Another right clipped Shamim hard and tipped him off balance. The solider touched down and took a count from the referee. Dryden pressed him hard then, firing a right uppercut through amongst a heavy combination.

Khan remained determined, leaping back from Dryden’s jab and throwing a shot back at Jack when he could. But Dryden retained control. The weight of the Birtley boxer’s punches knocked him off balance and Jack drove another crunching uppercut into Shamim’s chin. Khan took the power but had to move off hastily. He jabbed back to hold Dryden off but the Birtley boxer was making sure he found a reply.

Urged on by the crowd, Dryden pressed his advantage home. His right blasted through the middle. A left hook shifted Khan on his feet and Shamim needed to keep moving off, even spinning away when he had to. With a savage right Dryden gave Khan another count before the end of the contest. They finished firing punches at one another but Dryden was a clear unanimous points winner.

The prize for best male boxer went to Birtley’s popular Jack Dickinson, the brother of professional prospect Mark. He was returning to the sport after more than six years out but didn’t look like he’d been away for so long. In the 63.5kgs semi-final he faced a muscular challenge from Bilton Hall’s Dale Walker. Dickinson relied on power punches from his back hand, keeping his form as he met Walker head on and won a unanimous decision.

In the final Dickinson beat Dunston’s Josh Blenkiron. Dickinson fired his right to the body and landed his left hook to find space. But Blenkiron got to him with a combination before the end of the first round.

Jack sent his jab through the middle. His right arched down again and, though Blenkiron clipped him with an uppercut in close, Dickinson was pulling ahead in the bout and won a unanimous verdict.

Birtley welterweight Owen Rees looked formidable as he set about Marden’s Liam Huntley in their final. Rees, with a style that will be well suited to the pros, hammered excellent hooks to the body that set up fine combinations to the head. He kept up the pressure, driving Huntley back. He jarred Huntley with a double left hook. The Marden boxer jabbed himself and fought back with an uppercut. But he could not repel Rees. Owen kept on coming forward, driving Huntley back as he slammed shots through. His left uppercut streaked through and he mercilessly pounded in punches to win a unanimous decision.

In the 54kgs final Lee Rogers unanimously outpointed Middlesbrough’s Fazil Hussain. Rogers feinted before beginning to let his fast hands go. Hussain charged straight at him but Rogers could catch him on the way in. Lee waited a beat before launching his right over the top.

But Hussain was not discouraged. His right touched the body and Fazil rushed in again to land his left hook to the head. He sent another long right after Rogers as Lee stepped back. In the third round Rogers re-established himself. He landed a good one-two and looked to target the body, scraping his right hook across and taking the points verdict.

The Army’s Lily Devlin won the prize for best female boxer after she overcame Lambton Street’s Jade Childs in the 57kgs final. Sean Tindall from Docklands won the prize for best overall boxer and Monkstown won the prize for best team.

Docklands’ Youth boxer Anton Genockey was particularly impressive. In the Youth 54kgs semi-final he halted Pound for Pound Boxing Academy’s Dajuarn Samuel. He stepped in with a quick one-two before teeing up a left hook with a right uppercut. Genockey lined up hurtful long shots. In the second round he turned the screw, turning up the pressure to give Samuel two counts and force the referee to stop the bout.

In the final he met Cambois’ Lewis Guy. Genockey used his cross well. He led with it and swayed under Guy’s shots to land his own one-two. That sharp right jolted Guy over his jab. Lewis met him with jabs but the assured Genocky connected with a countering left hook and made sure to take a unanimous decision and the gold medal.