West Rainton’s Martin Ward will be partying all week long after capturing the English bantamweight title in a thriller at Hartlepool Borough Hall against veteran campaigner Jason booth.
In a very tight ten rounds, the two boxers traded blows in a back and forth contest that ended in a unanimous points decision for the North East boxer.
Booth, a former world title challenger, was on top in the early stages and was the aggressor throughout the fight but was left searching for answers as Martin Ward showed his skill and versatility, boxing on the counter with his back against the ropes, displaying extremely fast hands in the process.
Promoter Phil Jeffries, father of recently retired boxer Tony, says he will now look to get his 24 year-old prospect a shot at the British title. This may well be a very realistic possibility given that the current holder, Jamie McDonnell, will fight in an IBF world title eliminator in October on the Kell Brook undercard. Victory for McDonnell over Vusi Malinga would likely see him vacate the British title, leaving a chance for Ward to step up for British honours.
For Nottingham-born Booth though, the future seems a lot less clear. At 34 years-old, he has now lost his last five contests and is at an age where getting into a losing habit is just not an option.
Booth did show enough in the fight to prove that he can still fight on but the doubt remains because it is unknown whether or not he will enjoy boxing below championship level after spending most of it at such a high level.
The two met at the same venue back in March with fox the victor that time in a tight points win over six rounds. This time there was added incentive with the title on the line and Hepper was hoping to avenge the earlier defeat.
Hepper did well in the opening rounds using his long left jab to great affect but Fox, who is known to like to get on the inside and brawl, managed to turn the tie in the third round when he landed a massive right hook that put Hepper on wobbly legs.
From there Fox took over and in the fifth Fox got on the inside again and landed another big hook that sent Hepper to the canvas. He was up for the eight count but could not contain the follow-up barrage from Fox and the referee was forced to step in one minute and 50 seconds into the fifth.
In the other undercard fights there were points victories for four other North East youngsters. Rob Ismay (Newcastle) defeated Jody Meikle 40-37. Mohammed Waqas (Middlesbrough) won 39-37 against Brett Fido. Callum Winton (Hartlepool) beat Rob Sharp 39-37 in a relieving win after only drawing his debut bout and lastly, Greg O’Neil (Horden) moved his record to 3-0 with a dominant 40-35 points victory.