This Saturday, as the boxing world waits with bated breath for the epic lightweight unification fight in Las Vegas, Matchroom Boxing are staging a North East extravaganza… in Peterborough.
Originally slated to take place in Newcastle’s Utilita Arena on April the 4th it has now been rescheduled and more than most cards it has been kept intact.
COVID-19 may have robbed us of the rowdy crowds we are used to for this type of event, but it still gives us much to anticipate and analyse. We may not have the usual “Toon-Toon” chants of the drunken geordie throng but their fighters will be in action nonetheless.
With the British Boxing Board of Control extending the number of bouts allowed we now have 7 bouts filled with intrigue and excitement.
Ritson v Vasquez
The main event sees one of Newcastle’s most famous boxing alumni ‘The Sandman’ Lewis Ritson take on veteran Mexican Miguel Vasquez.
This is Ritson’s fourth fight at light welterweight and despite a tentative start and flirtation with going back down to lightweight, Ritson has now made 140lbs his home, looking increasingly more comfortable with each outing.
Coming off his biggest win to date anticipation is high. His unanimous decision victory over Robbie Davis Junior exactly a year ago this week caught numerous headlines and rekindled enthusiasm in Ritson as a title contender.
As well as several fight and round of the year considerations, Ritson also found a new confidence, in his chin, stamina and ability to compete at a high level. Thought of as a big hitting banger at lightweight he has used this win to remodel himself as a real contender.
His opponent on Saturday night however, knows all about levels. As well as being a former IBF world champion himself Miguel Vasquez is all too familiar with what the top looks like.
He has been in with; pound for pound star Canelo Álvarez twice, reigning unified champion Josh Taylor, former welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and Golden Contract winner Ohara Davies to name but a few.
Although these have been losing efforts, only one was by stoppage, his more recent bout against Taylor. This demonstrates a durability and understanding of ring craft, a survival mentality that will serve him well come Saturday night.
The pressure though will be one the hometown hero. Usually backed by his devoted congregation clad in black and white, this time he will have only doctors and cameras and cornermen to cheer him to the ring.
They may not be in the East of England Arena come Saturday night, but they will all be watching and expecting vintage Ritson. Therefore Lewis will have all of the pressure of that crowd without any of the support he normally feeds off.
Marshall v Rankin
Although Ritson may be topping the bill it’s the co main event that sees a world title on the line. Hartlepool’s amateur superstar Savannah Marshall takes on vetran Scot Hannah Rankin for the vacant WBO middleweight strap.
Marshall is best known for her amateur background and especially her 2012 upset victory over pound for pound star Claressa Shields in Qinhuangdao, China.
Despite a stop and start career herself, repeated call outs from Sheilds as well as appearances on high profile shows such as Mayweather v McGregor in 2017 have meant that Marshall has remained one of the hottest commodities in the female game.
She now stands at 8-0 with 6 knockout victories. That’s a 75% KO percentage, the highest out of any top 10 world ranked fighter at 160lbs.
Rankin too is used to the bright lights. She held the IBO female super-welterweight title in 2019, she challenged once for the WBA female super-middleweight title in 2018 and once for the WBA, WBC, and IBF middleweight titles against Claressa Shields in 2018.
Moving to a record of 9-4 she has fought a who’s who of all the talented operators between 154lbs and 160lbs, and throughout that run she has never been stopped.
This matchup will pit amateur pedigree agaisnt professional experience, knockout power agaisnt an iron chin.
Most importantly though, it will probably decide who next challenges the woman who called her self the Greatest Woman of All Time, Claressa Shields. A battle which could in turn alter women’s boxing indefinitely.
Olympian Qais Ashfaq will look to improve to 9-0 as his junior featherweight run continues. He meets the ‘Livewire’ Marc Leach, the 14-1 Salford native is sure to be gunning for the upset.
The Benwell Bomber, Joe Laws, will also appear on this card looking to put double digits in his win column. The rowdy geordie will be looking to prove he’s got skills as well as jokes taking on 5-0 Ryan Charlton.
29-0 Thomas Patrick Ward will also be in action taking on Thomas Essomba in a junior featherweight contest. Former British title challenger Kash Farooq and debutant Ellie Scotney will also feature.
Ewan Breeze for SimBoxx