Stuart Hall has started 2014 as he finished last year, by wining a major title.
In a fight of the year contender 'Stuey' performed heroics in December to claim the IBF bantamweight title against South Africa's Vusi Malinga, and now the Darlington man has just claimed another coveted award.
On February 5, at the Billingham Forum, Hall picked up the North East Sports Personality of the Year trophy. The region's first ever boxing world ruler, Glenn McCrory, presented the award to the area's latest champion, and Hall was delighted with his latest piece of silverware.
“It was mad because I didn't even know I was up for an award,” revealed Hall, who fought through a horrific eye injury to claim his points victory over Malinga.
“I really didn't expect it. When they started to announce the big one by getting Glenn McCrory up to present the award, that's when I started to get tingles on my neck. I was absolutely happy as 'owt, my wife said to me 'man up because you can't go down there crying'! I was just ecstatic.”
Next up for Stuart, in one of the biggest fights ever staged in the North East, comes the first defence of his crown against Commonwealth champion Martin Ward at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena on March 29.
On paper, Ward enters the contest as the underdog. With two defeats in 20 fights, including a fifth round domestic title defeat to Bristol's Lee Haskins, Martin won't be the betting favourite.
But, with both fighters hailing from County Durham and with Ward confident that his tricky southpaw style can spring a huge upset, Hall knows he can take nothing for granted. The 33-year-old believes he will have too much experience, and power, for his regional rival but refuses to look past the upcoming challenge.
“I'm taking Martin Ward seriously because this could be the biggest banana skin of my career if I slip up against him,” revealed the former British champion. “He's a tricky southpaw, but I've just beaten two of the best southpaws in the world [in Sergio Perales and Vusi Malinga].
“I've got in my head what I'm going to do and I'm going to take care of business and keep hold of my title. But it's a brilliant fight for the North East; that's why it's happening.”
Dennis Hobson Promotions presents Stuart Hall defending his IBF bantamweight world title against Martin Ward at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena on March 29. The exciting undercard for the show includes Birtley's Jon-Lewis Dickinson defending his British cruiserweight title against big-punching Neil Dawson. Also in action will be British and Commonwealth welterweight king Frankie Gavin; Sunderland's English lightweight champ Kirk Goodings against Sheffield's Jamie Sampson; Sedgefield's rising star Bradley Saunders; Sunderland’s Jonson McClumpha versus Dronfield's Lewis Taylor; County Durham's Thomas Patrick Ward; Hartlepool's Michael Hadfield; Middlesbrough’s Simon Vallily; Guisborough's Josh Leather; Doncaster's Dave Allen, and Sunderland's Jordan King.
London (10 February) James DeGale MBE is out to “send a statement” when he defends his WBC Silver super middleweight title against the undefeated Gevorg Khatchikian at the City Academy, Bristol, on March 1st, live on Channel 5.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic Gold Medallist, DeGale, feels that after his performance in Bristol, Badou Jack may not even want to face him in their WBC sanctioned final eliminator.
"You can really expect me to go in there and do the business - I can't see this going the full 12 rounds - I'm looking to send a statement to Jack,” DeGale said.
"After this performance, I'm not too sure if he's (Jack) going to want to fight me, but, he's going to have to if he wants a chance at that world title.
"But, I'm taking it one fight at a time and I'm looking forward to this one on March 1st.”
James meets the Netherlands based Khatchikian ahead of his WBC sanctioned final eliminator against Mayweather Promoted Badou Jack.
With the Jack contest in the private negotiation period, DeGale headlines a packed show in Bristol against the former IBO Youth champion, Khatchikian, who successfully extended his record to 20-0 two weeks ago.
Also scheduled to fight on the March 1st show is Bristol’s own British bantamweight champion Lee Haskins, undefeated heavyweight sensation Hughie Lewis Fury and a whole host of talent, including local Bristol fighters Dan Sarkozi, Lee Nutland, Ashley Lane and Dane Kelly, along with Gloucester's Wayne Ingram and Weston Super-Mare's Liam Hunt in his professional debut.
CAMERON SURGING TO THE TOP
Trainer Gareth Williams has predicted that Aussie light-middleweight sensation Cameron "The Hammer" Hammond will be at world level within two years.
The 2012 Olympian had former IBF super-featherweight champion Barry Michael raving about his technique when he defeated Thailand's Pramool Boonpok on the undercard of Mundine v Jackson recently.
And Williams believes it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world begins to take notice of Hammond's silky skills.
"Cameron is coming along better than I imagined he would," Williams, who also trains highly touted light-heavyweight prospect Damien Hooper, said.
"He doesn't have a high KO record, but believe me when he boxes longer rounds he will definitely be knocking opponents out as his power is very good.
"Cameron was a world class amateur boxer and has been already described as a world class pro by a former IBF world champion and now main event commentator.
"There are things that will take a bit more time than others, but this kid's keen to learn and he wants to be knocking on the door of the world champs in a couple of years.
"Cameron is one of the most athletic kids I've ever been involved with and he oozes talent and class.
"I believe Cameron has the ability to go as far as he wants in boxing, and with a record of 7-0 he is well on the way."
Details of Hammond's eight professional outing will be announced in due course.
EJKO Promotions have joined forces with Grosvenor G Casino Walsall ahead of their latest professional boxing show – ‘March Mayhem’ - at Walsall Town Hall on Saturday, 1st March.
Grosvenor G Casino Walsall will be present on the evening, offering live interactive blackjack and roulette coaching. The Casino, situated on Bentley Mill Way just off Junction 10 of the M6, will entertain the crowds with fun roulette and blackjack tables. There will be a host of competitions with prizes throughout the evening including ‘Spin To Win’ and ‘It’s a Knockout’.
All money raised will be donated The Carers Trust and Amphion ABC, Darlaston.
“It’s great to have Grosvenor G Casino Walsall on board,” explained Promoter, Errol Johnson. “This will bring a new dimension to our show and hopefully, it will be the start of a long and prosperous relationship between the two organisations.”
“We are honoured to have the opportunity to support boxing in Walsall and to showcase the many leisure facilities available at Grosvenor G Casino Walsall, “ added General Manager, Matt Rudd. “We look forward to working closely with EJKO in future events.
‘March Mayhem’ is headlined by a British Masters Title fight and an International Bronze Masters showdown. Stourbridge’s International Masters Welterweight Champion, Steven Pearce, takes on Sheffield’s Ryan Hardy whilst Walsall’s Luke Paddock goes in search of Bronze Masters honours when he steps in with Stoke’s Kevin Hanks at light welterweight.
Coventry’s Midlands Area Super Featherweight Champion, Troy James, features whilst Dudley light middleweight, Kyle Spencer, is back in action for the first time since May 2013 when he takes on Exeter’s Faheem Khan.
Halesowen super middleweight prospect, Lennox Clarke, takes on Croydon’s Joe Walsh looking to record a third successive victory after disposing of James Child and Jody Meikle recently.
West Bromwich light middleweight, Tom Stokes, steps in with Bognor Regis’ Liam Griffiths looking to extend his own unbeaten record to 4-0.
Wolverhampton super featherweight, Des Bowater, will also be looking to maintain his unbeaten start to life in the paid ranks and Stoke welterweight, Josh McLaren, also features against the experienced Matt Seawright.
Two boxers are also set to make their professional debuts. Birmingham cruiserweight, Andrew Lambert, faces tough Bulgarian Tayar Mehmed and Leicester welterweight, Ryandeep Nandha, steps in with evergreen Birmingham battler, Jason Nesbitt. Coventry light middleweight, James Montgomery, no longer features.
Tickets, priced at £30 and £60 Ringside, are available from Walsall Town Hall Box Office on 0845 111 2900. The aftershow party takes place at the Pitch Sports Bar and Grill on Bridge Street, Walsall.