WEARSIDE boxing has never had it so good.
Following the amateur heroics of Tony Jeffries, Sunderland has taken off as the North East’s fight capital with a number of fighters delighting local – and national – audiences.
Jaffa’s dad, Phil, yesterday put on a feast at the Stadium of Light when he put on a Summer Rumble.
And another emerging star, Martin Ward, used the stage to showcase his British bantamweight championship credentials.
The 23-year-old pocket dynamo outpointed former British, Commonwealth and European title holder Ian “Dappa” Napa.
Napa, 10 years his senior, may be past his best but the measure of Ward’s success at the Stadium of Light is that his 96-94 victory was the first non-title contest for the battle-hardened Londoner since October 2006.
In the years since he has fought in 11 straight British, Commonwealth or European 12-rounders.
But Martin Ward delivered a breathtaking display of boxing to win an entertaining 10-round confrontation yesterday.
The two-point margin scarcely does him justice, but this result, while not an eliminator, will move him to a position of title challenger.
“He’s sparred with all the top men in this division and now he’s just beaten one,” said a proud Fannan.
“When you put a high-class man in front of him, he raises his game
“We knew that he would raise his game against Napa and Martin looked awesome.
“Napa came and had a go, he wasn’t here for the money
“I have no fears about putting Martin in with anyone – he’s that good.
“I gave him eight of the rounds with two draws. But I’m not overly-concerned with the scoring, he won that was the main thing.
“And, in my view, he boxed out of his skin.”
This writer saw it by the much wider margin of 99-93 – I “awarded” Napa only the ninth round and a share of the third and sixth – but referee Andrew Wright’s was the only scoreline which counted.
Whoever’s score was most accurate is a matter for debate.
What is not open to doubt is the ability in the two hands of the Traveller from County Durham.
It was a fascinating contest of two differing styles between two of boxing’s little men.
Napa, just 5ft 1in, concentrated his punches to the body of southpaw Ward, who responded with blow after blow to the head of the man from Hackney. That was the pattern of the bout from Arnold Bryson’s first bell to the last.
Ward fired out a rapid machine-gun like right jab and he simply could not miss with his equally-explosive left.
At one point, Napa’s corner yelled out “let’s see what this kid’s got”.
And the former world cadet championship silver medallist had the answer – punch after punch after punch.
It was a brilliant display of boxing, which thrilled the big outdoor crowd.
“Napa came and gave it a good go, he had a lot of heart,” Ward said.
“But there was nothing he could do in that ring that I couldn’t do 10 times better.
“After six rounds, I knew I’d won, I was cruising in second gear, I could have upped it at any time I wanted.
“Neil said ‘don’t get carried away, don’t get involved, just carry on what you are doing.”