Stuey Hall was left ruing the mistakes which cost him his status as a boxing world champion at Newcastle Arena on Saturday night, but confident he has done enough while he held it to earn another shot at the big time.
Hall relinquished his IBF bantamweight belt on a split decision to Paul Butler.
The Darlington boxer thought he had done enough to edge the verdict, but headed home wishing he had shown more ruthlessness when on top.
“I made mistakes,” he reflected afterwards. “I let him off a few times. There were times when he stood and looked at me when I should have kept on top of him.”
On a night when the region’s two most senior champions lost their titles, albeit with Bradley Saunders joining their ranks, the early signs were not good for Hall.
Roared on by 600 noisy supporters, Butler took the first four rounds.
But Hall has a well-earned reputation as a warrior, and when a clash of heads cut him above the left eye in the fifth round, it seemed to energise him.
His cornermen did a good job closing up the gash, which later needed four stitches, and the champion began to dominate the ring in the middle rounds, pinning Butler against the ropes in almost every one of them.
The bell saved Butler at the end of the seventh, but too often he was let off lightly when trapped.
The grin on his face as he returned to his corner at the end of the 11th showed 25-year-old Butler thought he had wrestled back the initiative and while the final round was a close one, the sight of Hall dropping his hands and taunting his opponent suggested he thought he had done enough.
At the final bell both men were hoisted onto the shoulders of their support staff, celebrating like world champions.
The scorecards of Dave Parris and Berit Andreasen reflected that, scoring 115-113 in favour of Butler and Hall respectively. But Phil Edwards took a very different view, giving Butler the contest by six rounds.
“I thought I had done enough to win the fight,” Hall said afterwards. “Once they said ‘117’ (for Edwards’ score) I knew I wasn’t going to get it. It seems like they have just given him it by a wide margin. It should not have been like that. They got carried away with the flurries. He was scoring punches when he was hitting the gloves.”
Considering there was so much bad blood between the pair in the build-up, they were magnanimous in the post-fight Press conference. “He gave me a shot, so why not give him a rematch?” said unbeaten Merseysider Butler, fighting for only the second time at this step up in weight, yet claiming the world title in only his 16th professional contest.
It was a generous offer, but boxing politics seldom make life so straight-forward.
“I would love a rematch because I would put it on him from round one,” said Hall away from the Press conference. “I would stop him within nine rounds. He had no power. I let him off the hook.” At 34, having done something only Glenn McCrory of all the North East’s boxers has ever done, Hall could be forgiven for walking away.
But his time in the limelight – he won the belt in heroic fashion in December and defended it in Newcastle in anticlimactic style in March – has changed him for the better and convinced Hall he belongs at boxing’s top table. “I will be back and I will get another world title shot,” he said. “Jamie McDonnell (the rival he has been desperate to put the record straight against) might fight me now. He might think he has a chance.
“That’s the fight I would love to have.
“We will get another shot. It might not be for the IBF but we will stay in the gym and I will win another world bantamweight title.
“I have learned from that fight. I have just gone 12 rounds, I’m 34 and I feel sound. Until my body says I can’t do it any more I will keep doing it. I was never in trouble.
“I didn’t disgrace myself, definitely not. I have still got loads of energy. I’m off to Ibiza, I will chill there for a week then come back and get in the gym, and get the cut sorted out. I feel sound.”
Washington’s Jon-Lewis Dickinson was able to keep the loss of his British cruiserweight title in perspective after suffering a knockout on the bell for the end of the second round.
Dickinson was fighting for Ovill McKenzie’s Commonwealth title but lost his own when a right-hander sneaked through his defences and caught the top of his head, knocking him to the floor. Dickinson got up for the standing count but as soon as his leg buckled under him, the referee took the sensible course of action. The stoppage was timed as three minutes, nine seconds into the second three-minute round.
For another boxer it could have been a heart-breaking defeat, but Dickinson was remarkably sanguine about it.
He had earned his Lonsdale belt for life for defending the title a third time on his last visit to Newcastle, and was thinking more about August’s marriage to fiancee Kate, whose face is tattooed on his right shoulder, than what-might-have-beens.
It was a sense of perspective he earned the hard way, against Richard Turba in September 2010.
“When I had my broken jaw I was in the back of an ambulance crying I was in that much pain with my face hanging down and teeth twisted all over,” he recalled.
“Then I had to go for an operation. Now I’m all right, I’m walking around and I went for a few beers afterwards with my mate.
“That’s the sport. I got knocked by Tony Bellew when I was 18. I was out for 15 minutes. I think my head hit the floor before my feet!
“Saturday night was nothing. I got back up and unluckily my leg kicked out from under me. But the referee did the right job.
“I might have gone over again but saying that I didn’t know it was the end of the round so maybe he could have let it go.
“I could have maybe had that minute to recover but it’s his call and I’ve got to go with it.”