Newcastle fighter Lewis Ritson has shown the example to many young fighters trying to make a career in boxing here in the UK, as his rise from small hall shows to headlining arenas live on Sky Sports is nothing short of inspiring.
Many fighters like Ritson have come from fighting on small hall shows, and that’s why we must continue to support these events and the fighters looking to make their way in the sport.
Ritson was relatively unnoticed until he beat Robbie Barrett by technical knockout to claim the British Lightweight title, which was also his first time fighting live on Sky Sports, and his performances led to him signing a promotional deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, as he defended his belt three times, winning them all sensationally by knockout and headlining Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena when he challenged for the European belt back in 2018.
He unfortunately lost in his attempt to capture the title after a split decision went the way of his Belgian opponent Francesco Patera, but he took boxing fans, and especially his faithful fans from Newcastle, on an exciting ride all the way to this fight and it just goes to show that you never know where the next big name or fan favourite may come from.
It can be sometimes hard though to find real talent like Ritson from these smaller events however, and with the success of Team GB and with many of the fighters turning professional after they have been in the Olympics, they will obviously be guided to success in the sport as many promotors frantically try to get the Olympians to sign a deal with them.
Boxing’s popularity in the UK has reached an all-time high in recent years, and in no doubt the Team GB boxing team has had a lot to do with some of the current stars we see in the sport today.
Team GB has produced stars of UK boxing such as James Degale, Luke Campbell and Joshua Buatsi to name a few, with 2016 Olympian Lawrence Okolie recently becoming WBO world cruiserweight champion.
As well as the most obvious choice of 2012 gold medalist Anthony Joshua who has become one of the biggest names in the sport and shown a pathway to success by learning from the best in the amateur sport.
So why do we play so much importance on having a successful amateur career? Well, it is important to have one as it shows that you already have a background in the sport but winning an Olympic medal or World Championship doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be suited to the professional sport. They are both very different types of boxing, going from point scoring and three rounds to four to 12 rounds and aiming to damage your opponent.
And also, many fighters have shown that you don’t need a long amateur career to become successful as a professional. Tyson Fury didn’t go to the Olympics. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez barely had an amateur career and turned pro at 15, with Manny Pacquiao doing the same at 16. This shows that some boxers don’t always have their path so clearly marked out, that’s why it’s so important to pay attention to some of the lower-level fighters who are working hard to make a name for themselves.
Being part of an Olympic team and already having your name talked about before you’ve even had a professional fight can set up a successful career in the paid ranks, but some were never suited to the amateur game and take time to show their full potential.
Take Manchester fighter Ryan Doyle, who has had a successful career so far in the pro ranks with 18 wins from 23 fights, becoming commonwealth and English featherweight champion in that time, and I spoke with one of his coaches Eamonn Muldoon about giving these fighters more opportunities to showcase their talents and prove that you don’t need an accomplished amateur career to be a real contender with the elite.
“You have to give these fighters a chance, some are more suited to the professional sport and when Ryan was given that opportunity to fight for the Commonwealth belt which was live on Sky Sports, he took it with both hands and came home with the belt”.
Ryan signed a promotional agreement with Matchroom boxing after he won the Commonwealth belt, like Ritson had done, and Eamonn believes that Ryan is getting his rewards now in the sport as he is a better professional than he was an amateur.
“Like I said some are more suited to the professional game, and don’t get me wrong if you are a good amateur its likely you’ll be a good pro, but that’s not always the case”, Eamonn said.
“You never know who might be the next big name in the sport and that’s why we need to give these guys a chance, especially when they keep proving themselves”.
It’s hard to argue with these claims, and that’s why we should keep supporting the local small hall shows here in the UK, as you never know where the next success story will come from.