”Ritson, where are you?!” Robbie Davies Jnr screamed into the Sky Sports cameras following a third-round TKO of Michal Dufek. In front of a home crowd in Liverpool earlier this month, the 29-year-old super-lightweight was eyeing a grudge match that could take his career to the next level.
Lewis Ritson had just recorded a victory himself earlier that evening – stopping Marek Jedrzejewski – before calling out the local lad for a scrap further down the line. “He’s been running his mouth on social media”, Ritson explained. “I’m not about that. If he wants it next, he can get it. It’s a 50-50 fight, but I’ll smash him.”
Two and half months later and the pair will receive their wish. The Newcastle Arena will host an intriguing night of domestic boxing as the ‘Sandman’ drags Davies Jnr into his backyard – his connection to Sunderland AFC the only caveat in what will be a predominate raucous home crowd for Ritson.
With identical records reading 19-1, Ritson and Davies Jnr are attempting to use each other’s names as a springboard to the next level. After being found out by Francesco Patera in his step up to European level last year, Ritson’s move to super-lightweight is under the microscope as the 25-year-old looks to rebuild at 140 pounds.
His debut at the weight – a UD over German Argentino Benitez in March this year – highlighted defensive flaws which would have been exposed more by a better operator – the scorecards of 98-92, 98-92, and 99-91 were wider than most saw it from ringside inside London’s Copper Box.
Robbie Davies Jnr is the form fighter out of the pair having gone 4-0 after a shock defeat to Michal Syrowatka in the summer of 2017. The Liverpudlian avenged that defeat eight months after and has since scooped the Commonwealth, EBU European and British super-lightweight titles. A tick-over win on August 2. was used as nothing more than a promotional tool with Ritson on the same card – both parties played their part on a spicy night on Merseyside.
”I obviously had my own fight to think of, so I just stared at him. He was mumbling something,” Davies Jnr said regarding Ritson’s backstage behaviour inside Liverpool’s Exhibition Centre.
”We’ve been staying in the same hotel, and the god’s honest truth, my hand on my heart, every time I’ve looked at him, he’s looked away,” Davies Jnr added. “He will build the hype for the TV, but when it was just me and him, it was me who had front and not him.”
It’s a domestic dust-up that Matchroom – and more importantly – Sky Sports have craved throughout 2019. Sky Sports’ Head of Boxing, Adam Smith, made no secret of the pressure he has put Eddie Hearn under to deliver on British cards involving British fighters in 50/50 fights. Hearn’s attention on DAZN and the U.S market has received criticism back home for the crumbs he has left on the British table, with domestic fighters being thrown into the deep end abroad, or saved for unwarranted pay-per-view events in the United Kingdom.
Just like London buses, you wait for ages for one and then another comes along immediately. This is the case with the co-feature bout on October 19. as Ted Cheeseman puts his British super-welterweight title on the line against Scott Fitzgerald. Once again, this fight signals a huge risk from both fighters in their quest to move to European level.
Cheeseman and Fitzgerald have had contrasting 2019s. After claiming the vacant British super-welterweight strap against Asinia Byfield at the back end of 2018, ‘The Big Cheese’ stepped into European waters, coming up short – much like Lewis Ritson – to the underrated, yet well equipped, Sergio Garcia. The 24-year-old showed heart in a convincing loss to the travelling Spaniard but was fundamentally found out by a classy operator. A draw with Kieron Conway in June was enough to retain his British strap, however, huge question marks hang over the head of the Bermondsey fighter.
‘Fitzy’ is looking to add to Cheeseman’s troubles after a standout performance in the all-British Fight of the Year so far. Beating highly-rated Anthony Fowler – on a split decision to win the WBA International super-welterweight title – announced the 27-year-old on the domestic scene, with the door swung open for future chances under the promotion of Eddie Hearn.
Fitzgerald is an all-action fighter with a terrific work rate and high punch output. Cheeseman has shown his naivety in trying to walk through fighters in order to land back but will have to fight a smarter fight in Newcastle if he is to claim his first win in three fights.
Four men with aspirations to go onto fight at world level. Four men putting it all on the line with – arguably – more to lose than gain in taking on a domestic rival. It’s what we have pined for, especially in the UK, during a quieter run of competitive 50/50 fights in 2019. The cards where you simply can’t pick between the two at the sound of the first bell, and quite often still, at the sound of the last.
With every Matchroom fighter awaiting the phone call to say they will fight on the undercard of an Anthony Joshua – or even Dillian Whyte – pay-per-view show, it’s a breath of fresh air to see Saturday Fight Night cards being given the attention that has somewhat weaned over the past 18 months. ‘Bad Blood’ on October 19. inside the Newcastle Arena will be one you can afford, and can’t afford to miss!