Lewis Ritson vs Paul Hyland Jr: Domestic dust-up headlines a night packed full of potential in Newcastle
Boxing on TV: British lightweight bout leads a bill that also includes Gavin McDonnell’s bantamweight encounter with Stuart Hall
Amidst all the major fights going on in the boxing world at the moment, there is still nothing better than a packed night of competitive, domestic action. Tonight, in Newcastle, several of Britain’s most exciting prospects will take to the ring, headlined by British lightweight champion Lewis Ritson, who defends his title against Paul Hyland Jr.
Ritson’s rise to success has been rapid, and destructive. Prior to October 2017, the 24-year-old had barely beaten an opponent with a winning record, but a surprise British title challenge against then-champion Robbie Barrett ended in a seventh-round victory for Ritson. While the win was excellent, Ritson’s follow up success over Joe Murray was even more impressive, as the former Olympian was stopped in the first round.
At this stage, the Ritson hype-train was beginning to roar, with his reputation on boxing forums reaching rapid hype. In March, just five months after beating Barrett, Ritson soaked up a first round assault from Scott Cardle before stopping him in the second round. The fight taught us that Ritson has the ability to soak up pressure at will, but that his defence could come under scrutiny against a harder puncher.
So, is Paul Hyland Jr that guy? It’s unlikely. The Belfast man is 18-0 as a professional, but only seven of his wins have come via stoppage. Hyland is in good form after 2017 wins over Adam Dingsdale and Stephen Ormond, but though the Irish star has ambitions of his own assault on the European scene, he has not showed the overall quality in the ring that Ritson has.
But ring quality isn’t always the barometer to success. Tonight reflects the first time that Ritson has headlined a card of any great significance, and it comes in front of thousands of his local fans. Will he be able to deal with the pressure of performing, especially when his previous fights have come under the radar?
Hyland too must deal with new surroundings, he has never been in a fight of his magnitude, and has never fought in England before, let alone as the overwhelming villain of the piece for the local fans. If Ritson has the power advantage, and Hyland the general boxing skills, who will have the mentality to eliminate the expectation and focus on victory?
An excellent undercard will accompany the main event, led by Josh Kelly, who challenges for the Cruiserweight welterweight title in just his seventh fight. Kelly has attracted a great deal of attention for his sublime talent, with his Matrix-like movement and fast hands garnering plenty of acclaim. He faces a step up in Newcastle against Australian Kris George, who has stopped three of his last four opponents.
Elsewhere, Gavin McDonnell and Stuart Hall meet in a crossroads super bantamweight clash, Arfan Iqbal and Simon Vallily battle for the English cruiserweight title, Charlie Edwards and Anthony Nelson are in super flyweight action, while Ricky Burns and Glenn Food compete in tick-over bouts.