Local crowd-favorite Lewis Ritson fights in Newcastle on Saturday night for the first time since losing to Francesco Patera (22-3) in October 2018. Ritson was challenging for the EBU European lightweight title that night and suffered his first professional loss in a career that was promoting and evidencing his rising star status. He had already won the British lightweight title, successfully defending it on three occasions: twice with first-round knockouts, and the other, a second-round knockout of the talented Scott Cardle (23-3-1). Yet, he was significantly outclassed by Patera in October, a defeat which surprised and stunned the ardent, expectant natives.
Citing long-standing issues around the ease of making lightweight, Ritson moved up to super-lightweight following the Patera loss. With the extra 5lbs in weight, he predicted that we’d see ‘a new Lewis Ritson’, with power that would be ‘more telling’. What followed was an unconcussive, unsensational unanimous decision victory over German Benitez (22-4) in March, before a 3rd round TKO win over Marek Jedrzejewski (14-3) in August. And it was that August fight which has led us to Saturday’s.
Returning to the exhibition center’s backstage changing rooms after his win in August, Ritson exchanged verbal insults with Davies Jr and Davies’ team. Davies Jr was warming up, whilst awaiting his own ring walk to face Michal Dufek (27-22-2) when nouns such as ‘idiot’, ‘melt’ and ‘maggot’ began littering the audio picked up via the opportunistic tv cameras. These were expressions of a tension that had been building between both men even since Ritson moved into and thus became a rival in Davies Jr’s super lightweight division.
Aged 30, Davies Jr is four years older than Lewis Ritson. Holding an impressive record of 19-1, Davies Jr’s only loss came back in July 2017, a TKO defeat to Michal Syrowatka (21-3). Davies avenged this loss six months later and has since moved on to holding British, European and Commonwealth super-lightweight titles. His preference would now have been a move to challenge for World acclaim, but instead, he finds himself partaking in an intriguing domestic showdown, held within his rival’s home city. Again, he would have preferred the fight in his hometown of Liverpool, but Matchroom wished for it to be contested in Newcastle, and so here, and there, we are.
This fight has the feel of an examining steppingstone contest for Lewis Ritson, one that could elevate him into a position to fight world level opponents and provide Matchroom with a marketable fighter to capitalise on a passionate North East market. For Davies Jr, Ritson presents a potential banana skin and an obstacle keeping him and his promoters distracted from focusing on world titles.
There is acrimony here, but it is forged mostly out of fierce ambition and a knowing acceptance that only one of these fighters can profit from the future opportunities that victory will provide, rather than any personal antipathy; and one which will be ultimately resolved in the ring, at the Newcastle Arena, on Saturday night.