MARTIN Ward’s IBF world bantamweight title dream ended in blood and tears at the Metro Radio Arena.
The 26-year-old’s challenge for Stuart Hall’s title lasted under five minutes when he was stopped because of a badly cut right eye.
Referee Marcus McDonnell, taking advice from Tommy Conroy, working in the Ward corner ended the derby only 35 seconds into the second round.
It was a heart-breaking end for Ward and a massive anti-climax for the crowd of 5,000 for the historic North-East world championship shoot-out.
The contest was declared a technical draw because the stoppage was caused by an accidental clash of heads.
But that meant that the 34-year-old, from Darlington, retained his International Boxing Federation belt.
The bout had begun in lively fashion, Hall initially coming forward but Ward doing the scoring with some sharp punching, including two excellent right-left combinations.
Then came the moment Ward was cut and Hall finished the round strongly with a 15-second attack.
Conroy, assisting Ward’s coach Neil Fannan because his normal right-hand man, Mick Marsden is the coach of Hall, immediately began to work on the wound in the red corner.
It was such a tough job that Conroy was still making the finishing touches to his work as the bell for the second round was ringing.
And Ward began superbly with a nice counter, but as soon as Hall landed a punch, the blood poured again.
Mr McDonnell took Ward back to his corner and after inspecting the wound and consulting Conroy and Fannan, he ended the fight.