Hard-working Wearsider Tony Dodds enjoyed the perfect 32nd birthday by landing the ICO Northern Area full contact kickboxing belt.
The Nissan worker from Pennywell stole the show as Spartan Fighting Arts Academy secured three wins out of three on the Maximum Impact 7 show on Teesside.
Dodds had met Jack Exley twice before, winning once and drawing the other, but it was tough from the opening bell as Exley used his superior reach advantage well. It took Dodds most of the first round to find his way past Exley’s long rangey legs.
The tide began to turn in the second round, though, as Dodds pressed forward, landing telling, heavy shots.
After a second bout of sustained pressure, Exley was down and taking a count of 10 from referee Dean Wilson, but the bell came to Exley’s rescue.
Exley came out strongly in the third, but Dodds sensed blood and piled on the pressure, looking to finish off his opponent, but he held on.
Dodds looked weary in the fourth, but he pushed on and pinned his man on the ropes time after time with heavy shots. Exley again went down, following two right round kicks to the body, but he beat the count and survived to reach the fifth round.
Exley went down again under a barrage of shots, and looked to be out altogether. Although he was up within a few seconds, it was too late - under ICO rules the fourth knockdown means the fight is over and Dodds was crowned champion.
Dodds had no time to celebrate, though, as he heads to Wishaw, near Motherwell, in Scotland tonight to take on Alan Shannon, hoping to relieve him of his WKA British full contact title.
Spartan’s Ryan Forth enjoyed an excellent win over Ben Exley in a 62kg amateur K1 match.
Forth outgunned his opponent in rounds one and two, with the third round a little closer but still securing the win on a points decision.
K1 champion Cal Hewitt had a late change of opponent, with experienced pro Athos Constandi stepping in at short notice.
Ruthless Hewitt stopped the fight in around a minute with a series of brutal leg kicks.
Chief instructor Paul Grieves said: “I was extremely proud of our stable. They trained really hard for this, and it showed.”
Anyone interested in taking up kickboxing or mixed martial arts can contact Grieves on 07971 467989.