Willy Hutchinson had promised to knock Craig Richards unconscious all week. Though he didn’t manage to do that, he nonetheless surprised almost everyone when he won a thrilling and deserved 12-round unanimous decision – 116-112, 117-111 and 119-109 – to get Queensberry off to a flyer in the first bout of the "5 vs 5" card in Saudi Arabia.

“What have I not going for me?” Hutchinson, 18-1 (13 KOs), said after his victory. “I’m young, hungry and handsome, and I’m ready to take over the world. Look at me.”

Plenty had been looking at Carstairs, Scotland’s Hutchinson in the not so distant past. He was once regarded as one of the brightest prospects in Britain. He turned professional after winning the World Youth Championships in 2016, but five years later, when 13-0 in the professional ranks, he was upset by Lennox Clarke in five rounds when attempting to win the vacant British and Commonwealth super middleweight titles.

Though the 25-year-old Hutchinson had won four bouts since then, the opposition was some way below the standard and experience of Richards, a skilled Londoner who ran Joshua Buatsi close in 2022, one year after taking rounds from Dmitry Bivol in an unsuccessful bid for the WBA light heavyweight title in Manchester. Hence why Hutchinson was one of the underdogs on this "5 vs 5" bill.

But the Scot, switching stances with early aplomb, tried to make his mark in the opening round when he raided with overhand blows. They were off target, and the favored Richards, a notorious slow starter, stayed composed while trying to establish the range and control the pace behind his jab.

The Scot was the first to score with a noteworthy blow, in Round 2, when a left hand got his rival’s attention and a right cross from Hutchinson soon followed. Richards, now trained by Shane McGuigan, tried to hold his feet in center ring at the start of the third but was struggling to contain the exuberance of his opponent.

Hutchinson scored with two rights to close that third round and, after nine minutes, it was difficult to see a way back for Richards. It became even harder to envision in the fourth as Frank Warren’s man poured on further pressure, even wobbling the increasingly uncomfortable favorite with a right.

There was excitement of sorts in the fifth as Hutchinson further cranked up the pressure. Richards – who was told off by his corner at the end of the session for respectfully tapping his enemy’s gloves at the bell – was rocked by lefts and lead right hands.

What was startling at the halfway point, aside from Richards’ lack of success, was the fact that relative novice Hutchinson was having a much easier time with the Englishman than Bivol and Buatsi could boast. Switching from lefty to righty and growing in confidence while doing so, Hutchinson appeared prime for an upset win.

Yet Richards, nine years his opponent’s senior at 34, showed signs of recovery in the seventh, and there was further hope in the next – the first time that Hutchinson had been into Round 8 – when the dreadlocked contender started to connect with his lead.

By Round 9, McGuigan was screaming from the safe side of the ropes that Hutchinson was tired, which, though surely true, only seemed to inspire the underdog before Richards ended the stanza the stronger. Even so, with three rounds to go, it was still an awfully long way back.

Both were running low on reserves by the 10th and, consequently, the drama increased. The work coming from Hutchinson became increasingly ragged, and he swallowed more than one right hook and, as he briefly regained control, another booming blow from “Spider” landed flush. For a moment, Hutchinson looked out on his feet.

By the end of a wild 11th – which saw Hutchinson seemingly on the brink of being cleaned out before he grittily fired back – it was incredible that neither man had yet taken a count.

Astonishingly, Hutchinson was the more energetic over the final three minutes, even finding enough gusto to show off his own version of the Ali shuffle. Upon seeing it, the last of Richards’ ambition seemed to disappear.

What a fight to start the night.

“I’ve been through so much, I’ve had a hard life and I’ve rose to the top,” the winner said. “Thank you for Frank Warren for believing in me.”

For what it’s worth, the WBC silver light heavyweight bauble was at stake.