Sunderland made history on Saturday by hosting the prestigious ABAE Elite Championship finals for the first time in the competitions 100-plus years history.
The Rainton Meadows Arena was packed to rafters as the Tyne, Tees and Wear ABA hosted an incredible event that will be remembered in the region for years to come.
That will certainly be the case for Houghton and District ABC’s Josh Kelly.
Kelly won the 63.5kg final over London’s Chris Mbwakongo (Lynn ABC) via a unanimous decision after a classy display from the Sunderland-born boxer.
Josh showed great footwork and was nimble throughout, boxing large parts of the fight on the back foot with his back against the ropes.
As he’s showed in previous rounds of the competition, he was more than comfortable with boxing like this and showed a good defence to block or weave away from almost everything Mbwakongo threw.
His counter punching was fast, accurate and also powerful and that earned Josh a memorable victory. Even more memorable when taking into account that this is Josh’s first year at senior after claiming the junior title last year.
Josh became only the seventh Sunderland boxer to claim the prestigious award, and the first for five years, after Warren Baister and Adam Whitfield (representing the Army) won in 2008.
In London in 2008 joining Baister in victory were names such as Luke Campbell, Anthony Ogogo, George Groves and a certain Mr. Tyson Fury.
If that list is anything to go by then it is possible that yesterday North East fans got an early glimpse of future champions in Rainton. Including Josh’s there was some very impressive boxers on show.
Bellotti took the fight to Jack Daniel (Kelly’s ABC) from the off and he threw caution to the wind; throwing a lot of heavy leather.
His constant pressure and boxer-fighter style was just far to much for Daniel to handle. He took it on a unanimous decision. That meant he retained the title he won last year by beating Middlesbrough’s Joseph Maphosa.
Saunders, representing the Army Boxing association, appeared to be just on top after a tight opening two rounds but after getting caught with a big left hook from McNess, Saunders closed the win with a massive flurry of aggressive shots.
The region was well represented in other weight categories too.
Richardon was in control in the first two rounds picking off an aggressive but sloppy Webb as he came in with powerful hooks to the head.
Webb looked a lot bigger than Richardson though and in a tactic not too dissimilar from what the aforementioned Fury deployed in New York on Saturday, the Woking boxer leaned all over Richardson, tiring him with his weight.
That almost paid off when Richardson just looked completely drained with less than a minute to go and he was caught with a big left hook that sent him to the canvas.
He was back up and showed experience to clinch with Webb to regain his senses, but when he decided to restart the brawl again he was once more caught; this time receiving a standing eight count.
The bell went during the count meaning Richardson had survived, and via a 3-2 majority decision he got the win.
Last year at 86kg Fusco was also beaten in the final but this year stepped up to 91kg where he looked far more comfortable.
On the way to the final he beat Corby’s Simon Barclay who last year won the competition after beating none other than Bridet. Bridet was not to be denied this year though after a tight battle resulted in another majority 3-2 decision.
Fusco was in no way outboxed and on a few occasions he rocked his opponent with big hooks. Bridet had a solid snap jab though and it continuesly made its way through Fusco’s guard, resulting in him finishing with a lot of blood coming from the nose. Two public warnings for Fusco may have been the only difference.
It was a similar story for Joel Spragg who was a beaten finalist last year representing TTW club Spennymoor. This year his 51kg final was against GB squad member Jack Bateson (Burmantofts ABC), who last year won the 48kg final.
Spragg, now representing Brighton City ABC, tried to take the fight to Bateson who showed all the training he’s receiving with GB in Sheffield is paying off with a classy counter boxing display. The decision was unanimous.
One division up, the 54kg final could hardly have been shorter. West Ham ABC’s Lucien Reid claimed the title in less than ten seconds after throwing one punch that caused a nasty cut over the right eye of Manchester’s Marc Leach (Ardwick Lads ABC). He was left understandably devastated by the early stoppage.
Overall it was a fantastic and special day of boxing in the North East, and who knows yesterday we may have beared witness to the next generation of British world champions.
48kg Waleed Din (Sheffield Lane Top) WDSQ2 Luqmaan Patel (Earlsfield ABC)
60kg Ryan Fillingham (Army BA) LUPTS Isaac Dogboe (Territorial Army)
71kg Scott Fitzgerald (Larches & Savick) WUPTS Luke Saunders (West Ham)
75kg Adam Farrell (Salisbury) WUPTS Felix Cash (Guildford City)
81kg Ashley Vanzie (KBW) LMPTS Ricky Crotty (Hoddesdon)
86kg Jack Massey (Northside) WUPTS Chris Billam-Smith (Poole)