North East Boxing Scene
The North East of England and Newcastle area has a major Boxing heritage with over 100 amateur boxing clubs in the Tyne & Wear region alone. With a long history in the sweet science, the North East has produced great fighters from the likes of Tommy Watson and Glenn McCrory to up-and-comers like Joe Laws and Josh Kelly. Big shows held by the likes of Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn are growing the scene in the North East, with venues such as the Newcastle Arena more than ready to host at the highest level. With Fight brands such as Revgear and Fightstorepro calling the region home, the boxing scene is well supplied by the best in the business.
North East Boxing Culture
Boxing has always been strong in the North East of England. Great fighters and coaches rose out of the tough working classes forged in the in the industrial environment. Even back in the old bare knuckle days, the North East, like other industrial regions, had an enthusiastic love of the sweet science, so much so, that a man named William Vasey gave an impassioned speech at the Newcastle Debating Society warning of the “influence of pugilism on morals” in 1824.
North East Boxing History
The North East has had a boxing scene for as long as boxing has existed, with bare knuckle fights occurring in the area in the 1700s. As the gloves were introduced, the area continued to produce great boxers, with the likes of Newcastle-born British featherweight champion Tommy Watson coming out of the navy and fighting the best at the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Gardens in the 1930’s, before becoming a top-tier referee. Three decades later Maurice Cullen emerged from the colliery at Shotton to become the British lightweight champion, a title he defended four times throughout the 1960’s.
Hailing from Sunderland, Billy Hardy dominated the British bantamweight and featherweight scene for a decade, starting in the late 1980s. He started boxing aged six at the Hilton Castle Boys Club in 1970, with his first professional fight in 1983. In 1987, he took the British bantamweight title. After defending it three times, he relinquished the title in 1991 to move up to featherweight, winning the Commonwealth title in that division in 1992. In 1994, Hardy added the British featherweight, following it up with the European title in 1995. In 1997 he challenged Naseem Hamed for the WBO and IBF featherweight crowns, but was defeated in just 93 seconds with a broken nose and cheekbone. Hardy defended his titles again in 1998, before retiring aged 34.
“Gentleman” Glenn McCrory is possibly the most successful fighter to come out of the North East. Born in Annfield Plain, County Durham, McCrory made his professional debut in 1984. His career started with 13 straight wins, before hitting a losing streak that put doubt on his future. A big win against Joe Adams in Louisville, Kentucky in 1986 set him up to challenge for the Commonwealth cruiserweight title. He took the prize in front of a home crowd in Gateshead in September 1987, before adding the British cruiserweight title in January 1988. He defended both titles almost immediately in April of that year. In 1989, McCrory picked up the IBF world title, defending it once, before losing it to Jeff Lampkin in 1990. In 1991, he moved up to heavyweight, challenging Lennox Lewis for his British and European titles. After losing the fight, McCrory fought a few more times before retiring in 1993. McCrory is now a professional trainer, with his own gym in Newbiggin, but is better known as a commentator and pundit on Sky.
Beginning his training aged 10 at the Sunderland Amateur Boxing Club, the Mighty Mackem, Tony Jeffries had an unrivalled school boy and amateur career that included 15 national and international medals, culminating with a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Jeffries turned pro in 2009, signing with Frank Maloney.
Jeffries’ short-lived professional career saw him win draw once and win 9, six of which by knock out. His career was cut short by hand injuries, leading him to retire to Santa Monica in 2012, where he runs the Santa Monica boot camp.
North East Boxing Events
With the Amateur Boxing Association active in the North East, there are plenty of events for young fighters to gain experience at. Big shows have always been held in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland, with promoters Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn bringing ever bigger events to the area. Local fighters find it easier each year to be showcased in front of their home crowd at the higher tiers of the sport.
Current North East Boxers
There is a wealth of young talent in the North East and we may be witnessing one of the greatest eras in history for boxing in the region. Here are a few of the big names today.
Pundits have drawn a lot of similarities between “Pretty Boy” Josh Kelly and Ukrainian superstar, Vasyl Lomachenko. The 25-year-old Sunderland welterweight has lit up the local boxing scene with a professional record of 8 wins from 8 fights. He currently holds both the WBA International and the Commonwealth welterweight titles.
Starting his amateur career at the South Bank Amateur boxing club in Middlesbrough, cruiserweight Simon Vallily overcame a turbulent youth, which included prison time, to fight back into a boxing career. With an amateur career capped with a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Vallily’s professional record is 13-2-1.
Newcastle native Lewis Ritson began boxing aged 8, racking up 97 amateur fights before turning pro in 2015. In 2017 he won the British lightweight title, defending it three times to win it outright and keep the belt in 2018. The exciting young fighter has won all but one of his 18 professional bouts.
The charismatic Geordie 24 year old is walking a path set out by countless fighters before him. Fighting in the super welterweight division, Joe has made an impact on the scene with 3 KO’s from 3 fights. With the likes of Eddie Hearn putting the Newcastle-born fighter on his shows, his future is bright.
Thomas Patrick Ward
Super-bantamweight Tommy Ward from West Rainton, County Durham, turned pro aged 17 and has had an immaculate career. With 26 wins from 26 fights, Ward is ranked number 10 in the world by the WBO. Ward currently holds the British, IBF European and NABA USA super-bantamweight titles. The 24-year-old still has a long career ahead of him.
Darren Richardson (Surtees)
Undefeated in his 11 professional fights, Darren Richardson from Thornley, County Durham, is the current Northern Area super-lightweight champion. The 24-year-old knockout artist has a 73% KO ratio, making him one of the most exciting boxers in the North East.