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Lewis Ritson: Enter Sandman

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With Ritson on the rise, the lightweight division should be sleeping with one eye open.

Boxing at the O2 Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Lewis Ritson (16-0) is rapidly making a name for himself in British boxing. With four stoppage victories inside a year - two coming in the opening three-minutes - the ‘Sandman’ has successfully defended the British lightweight title three times, after winning it last October against Robbie Barrett in the form of a 7th round TKO.

Now, looking to move through the levels of the professional ranks, the 24-year-old Geordie has a shot at the vacant European lightweight title in front of his hometown fans in Newcastle, England, where he is looking to display his hard-hitting punch power in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

His opponent, Francesco Patera (19-3), is a Belgian 25-year old with three losses on his record, the last, and most notably, coming in a UD loss to former European champion Edis Tatli who has since vacated his belt.

Patera has previous on British shores. In 2016, the Belgian lost a well-contested split decision against renowned hard-man Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd, on a card headlined by Tony Bellew and BJ Flores; despite this experience, it is a yark-stick as to the level that the Genk native is capable of reaching.

This is a chance for Ritson to enjoy his ‘break-out’ fight on a much larger scale. With an expected 9,000-strong crowd packed into the Metro Radio Arena, Ritson, and his promoter Eddie Hearn, are confident this is the start of something much bigger.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s press conference, Hearn stated: “I was completely blown away with what I saw both in and out of the ring last time we were in Newcastle. Lewis Ritson has fast become one of the most popular and exciting fighters in British boxing and now he gets an opportunity to challenge for a European title. He has cleared up domestically and this is the next step.”

Touted as the “Geordie Golovkin” by his adoring promoter, Ritson’s label as one of Britain’s most exciting fighters isn’t without merit. Ritson has shown devastating power in his most recent fights with his 63% KO record not doing the lightweight justice; five of his first six fights were won on the scorecards in 4 and 6-rounders.

Take for example the first round mauling of Paul Hyland Jnr., previously unbeaten with an 18-0 record. From the opening bell Ritson walked down his opponent in a predatory manner, using his stiff left jab to gauge his range while staying compact in defense against Hyland’s back-foot combinations.

Two minutes into the opener and Ritson’s eyes lit up. Sensing an opening in the guard of Hyland Jnr., Ritson allowed his hands to flow, combining straight lefts, right hooks and compact uppercuts to the retreating challenger. Dropping Hyland for the first time with a right hook, Ritson was straight back onto ‘Hylo’ with wild left and rights after the Northern Irishman rose after an eight count.

Dropping Hyland twice more led to referee Steve Gray to wave off the fight in the opening round, sparking mad scenes of joy in the Metro Radio Arena. This was Ritson’s arrival at a domestic level; showcasing his devastating power at lightweight inside a round of championship boxing.

This leap to European level is a sensible option for Ritson and his team. Patera should offer little resistance for Ritson, whilst simultaneously allowing the Brit to get some invaluable rounds under his belt in front of a partisan crowd. The Northeast of England has been starved of glittering fight nights for a considerable number of years, with Ritson (and Josh Kelly) allowing a passionate fan base the chance to rival that of Leeds, Belfast and Liverpool that have set the benchmark outside of London in recent years.

The lightweight domestic division in the UK is competitive and attractive. With Ritson firmly into the top five, the likes of Sean Dodd, Tommy Coyle and Ohara Davies await the Geordie for domestic head-to-heads; a step up to the likes of Luke Campbell, Anthony Crolla and Terry Flanagan (possibly at 140-pounds) are possibilities in years to come providing he can keep his ‘0’ intact against his fellow countrymen.

The sky is the limit for the talented 24-year-old. A ‘tick-over’ fight in Birmingham next week will precede his European title challenge on October 13, with Ritson expecting to turn into 2019 with an 18-0 record.

Britain has seen similar journeys from a pool of talented fighters over the past decade, however, few have consistently shown the explosive excitement that the ‘Sandman’ delivers.