LEWIS RITSON is back and back with a flourish. The darling of the Geordie nation headlined Probellum’s inaugural UK event by forcing Christian Uruzquieta to retire on his stool before the 10th and final round of their super-lightweight confrontation at the Rainton Arena on Saturday.
It was a little way short of his stand-out triumph over arch-rival Robbie Davies just over two years ago but it was a step up from that controversial split-decision win over Miguel Vasquez and the stoppage defeat to Jeremias Ponce in June.
The 28-year-old’s performance, some 15 miles south of his home Toon, had a bit of the new Ritson but it also had a taste of the old Ritson – you remember the nights when “the Sandman” lived up to his moniker by putting a series of British lightweight challengers to bed. Uruzquieta had given his all for eight-and-a-half hard-fought rounds when Ritson produced a left hook-right uppercut combination, which felled the 31-year-old.
The Mexican rose, just as Kenny Pringle reached nine in his count, and some crafty corner work while his gumshield was thoroughly rinsed bought Christian some recovery time.
Fearing a maiden stoppage loss, the proud Uruzquieta went into attack mode on the resumption, but expended so much energy when he returned to his corner he had nothing left and Mr Pringle accepted his retirement.
Ritson would have got a landslide points verdict, courtesy of his trademark jab and the accompanying thumping volleys into the head and body which softened up his opponent before recording the Forest Hall hero’s first early win since summer 2019.
Thomas Patrick Ward oozed class in a 10-round points triumph over Leonardo Padilla … world class.
Having spent an inordinate amount of time in the top echelon at super-bantamweight, the West Rainton talent is now trying to establish himself up at feather and this unanimous romp should aid those ambitions. Terry O’Connor scored it 98-92 with both Pringle and Phil Edwards marking it 100-90.
Padilla did show some fire in the fifth round but, that aside, it was hard to recall the Venezuelan laying a meaningful glove on Ward, whose foot and hand speed dazzled, the 27-year-old delivering a constant stream of combinations.
The only time Ward’s brilliance was interrupted when he lost his cool in the eighth, complaining that Padilla had attempted to bite him. After a warning from referee Ron Kearney, the rest of the contest passed off with no dramas, just home dominance.
There was dominant scoreline too for Ricky Burns as the Coatbridge legend resumed after a two-year hiatus with a unanimous points verdict over Emiliano Dominguez.
The 38-year-old, back for the first time since a points defeat to Lee Selby and now under the Probellum umbrella, won on all three cards, 99-91 (Edwards), 99-92 (O’Connor) and 100-91 (Kearney).
After a quiet opener, Burns established control of the ring with his jab and some accurate long straight rights to the Argentine’s head. Unfortunately, the contest would become disappointingly untidy with prolonged bouts of holding, so much so that it could have passed off as a last-dance-of-the-night audition for Strictly.
Following a point deduction for Dominguez in round nine, Burns did get off a stinging head combination, which brought the large travelling army of fans to life but it went all the way.
Stablemate Mark McKeown was involved in the undercard fight of the night, a stern six-round test from the shorter but enthusiastic Uriel Lopez.
The Mexican won the second and shared the fifth, but the pace and precision of McKeown were impressive before throwing the kitchen sink in a bid for a last-round stoppage but Lopez refused to topple. The Scot won it 59-56 from Kearney, with Neil Close refereeing.
After a 38-second debut victory last time out, Gateshead’s Mark Dickinson got six valuable rounds under his belt with some highly-accurate scoring in a 60-54 shut-out over Slovakian hardcase Michal Gazdik.
There were two sprightly six-rounders to open and close the event.
Firstly, powerful Greek-born Newcastle-based Alex Farrell dropped the lively Slovakian Ivica Gogosevic twice, Kearney calling it off at 1-04 of the second.
Newcastle favourite Joe Laws conceded weight and height to Burnley’s Seamus Devlin who defended well until the “Benwell Bomber” took command in the later rounds, winning 60-55 from Kearney with Close as ref.
Hartlepool’s Adam Cope put rugged Russian Rustem Fatkhullin down with a peach of a left hook to the body en-route to a 40-35 victory from Kearney.
In the other four-rounder Jarrow’s Ewan McKenzie pounded away for three minutes at Sheffield’s Qasim Hussain, who retired at the end of the first, citing a shoulder problem.
The Verdict Impressive fare from Ritson and Ward and great to see Burns start his comeback with a win and with barely a mark on him.