Tommy Ward beat Robbie Turley at Houghton to set up a British super-bantamweight title showdown with James “Jazza” Dickens.
Ward outboxed a very determined Turley over 10 gripping rounds in this England v Wales eliminator, taking victory via a unanimous points decision.
It sets up a British showdown with Dickens who, ironically, had defeated Tommy’s elder brother, Martin, in the same Rainton ring last November..
Turley, who has previously gone the full 10 rounds with Carl Frampton before his IBF and WBA world glories, brought energy, enthusiasm and a never-say-die approach at Rainton Meadows Arena.
But Ward brought quality to the ring to win on all three judges’ scorecards, John Keane (97-93), Andrew Wright (98-92) and Graeme Williams (96-94).
It sets up a British showdown with Dickens who, ironically, had defeated Tommy’s elder brother, Martin, in the same Rainton ring last November.
Tommy will not fear the Scouser after showing class and guts against the redoubtable Turley.
The opener was tight but Ward had the edge and he set about confirming that from the second onwards.
Using his superior footwork and handspeed, the 21-year-old took control and seemed to have won all five rounds in the first half of the contest, his beautiful counter-punches finding the target.
Turley, to his credit, would not take a backward step, even after taking a right flush to his chin in the sixth.
The 29-year-old, from Cefn Fforest, had a point deducted for holding by referee John Latham in round seven.
But that seemed to encourage Turley forward and while he missed with as many shots as he landed in the eighth, it demonstrated he was not going to bow out with a whimper.
And the Neil Fannan and Dave Garside star, though the more gifted boxer, proved he can stand and fight too - he did not back off.
However, it was Ward’s accuracy which always had him in front, finishing that session with two left upper cuts.
Turley was like the Duracell Bunny, he just kept going and going and he competed strongly in the ninth and got the better of the 10th on ‘my’ very amateur scorecard.
But Ward was the better and sharper boxer and there was no doubting the winner.
Even before the MC announced the winner, Turley was congratulating Ward who was carried around the ring by proud brother Martin to the adulation of a packed crowd.
It was his 17th and best victory and bout 18 will almost certainly be a shoot-out with Dickens.