Birtley big man Travis Dickinson is within touching distance of British boxing’s main stage – and bringing a new generation of North East talent with him in the process.
The burgeoning North East boxing scene has had a few big days recently, not least the coronation of Dickinson as English light heavyweight champion after knocking out Danny McIntosh in March. Stuart Hall’s rags-to-riches rise as a world champion is another great night that springs to mind, along with the 5,000 he managed to attract to his first title defence against fellow local boy Martin Ward.
He will go again at the Arena in June against Paul Butler but in the meantime, Dickinson can take another step towards the big time on Saturday – while some big prospects aim to do the business on North East soil.
It promises to be a big night for anyone who follows the sport in the city. First up is the Steve Wraith-fronted Young Guns show at Gateshead’s Leisure Centre, which is headlined by Dickinson’s stable-mate Robert Craig Dixon in an International Masters bout against veteran Sylwester Walczak.
Then there is the small matter of Dickinson’s first defence of the English title he won last month. He fights Preston’s Matty Clarkson in a bout that doubles up as a semi-final bout in the MaxiNutrition Knockout competition and gives the 26-year-old another chance to impress in front of a national TV audience.
“I don’t feel any pressure because I’ve got the belt. I’m not really thinking about the fact that I’ve got the belt, this is just another fight for me,” he said.
“I’m not really taking any notice of what Matty is saying or what he thinks he is going to do, I’m just confident that I’m going to do the business. Being in this kind of competition is a big opportunity for me, it’s a big chance and obviously the prize of a British title fight in the final is a big one.
“It’s a great chance, a great career boost for me if I can emerge from it. I’ve already seen that happening, people recognise me on the streets now and that’s nice. It’s good.”
Dickinson once went toe-to-toe with George Groves in the amateurs and there are high hopes that he can make an impact on the world stage. But he must conquer Britain first, as he acknowledges.
“I’ve got my heart set on two things this year: winning this competition and winning the British title. I’m confident I can do it,” he said.
The Young Guns show before then sees an array of exciting local talent handed challenging bouts. Of particular note are unbeaten Dixon and prospect Lewis Scott, who takes a major step-up to take on Jon Brennan.
“I see it as an opportunity for myself to show everyone how good I am and get my hands on that first title. I’m really looking forward to it and the change in opponents is just something I’m getting on with,” top-of-the-bill Dixon said.
“You always throw different things into your training and vary your sparring anyway. It is great for me that I train alongside Travis and obviously I look at him now and that’s where I want to be.”
As well as Dixon against Walczak, the bill also includes Craig Nicholson v Darren McKenna, John McCallum versus Max Maxwell, pro debutant Basi Razak against Dean Croft and Tom Whitfield clashing with Jamie Zaslos.
The promotion has been the usual mixture of hope, hard work and expectation for Wraith, who is one of a number of local promoters putting on solid and entertaining cards at the moment.
He is guaranteeing six bouts for the £30 admission fee and hopes fight fans get behind the promotion. Doors open at 5.30pm with the first fight at 5.45.
“There’s a lot of good talent and it’s good to see the bigger promoters coming here and seeing what there is here,” said Wraith.
Tickets are available on the night or through wraithpromotions.com.