British Lightweight title: Paul Hyland jnr (18-0) v Lewis Ritson (16-0) (tonight, live on Sky Sports)
SOMEONE'S ‘0' has got to go but Belfast challenger Paul Hyland jnr (18-0) says it won't be his when he takes on 15-0 British champion Lewis Ritson in his native Newcastle tonight.
Unbeaten Hyland has trained for the toughest fight of his career against the well-organised Geordie banger who hasn't gone the distance in over two years and will win the Lonsdale belt outright if he makes a successful third defence of his title tonight.
Hyland is a slick mover and skilful boxer and although he has only seven stoppage wins on his record, he has the power to gain Ritson's respect and he'll need to do that early on because he certainly won't have to go looking for ‘The Sandman'.
Ritson made short work of Scotty Cardle in his most recent defence. Cardle threw everything into a kamikaze first round effort but was blasted out in the second. Hyland, who has trained to go the distance (12 rounds) expects to cause a shock tonight.
“He's had cracking wins but this is going to be the toughest fight of his career and the toughest fight of my career,” said ‘Hylo'.
“I've prepared well for it. A lot of people are overlooking me and they're going to be fools on Saturday when I get my hand raised.”
Ritson beat Robbie Barrett to win the British title in October last year and has since defended the belt against Joe Murray and Cardle. All three fights were stoppage wins for him and Hyland admits “he hits like a hammer”.
“But none of them have got the power I have,” he argued.
“It's different when somebody's is getting hit back on the chin to see if they can walk through someone's punches. I can box, I can fight and I can adapt to different fighters and anybody who knows me in boxing knows that if you hit me with a hammer I'll still keep coming forward.
“I know he does hit like a hammer, he hits hard and I hit hard myself so we'll see who wants it more on the night.
“Both of us are undefeated, so one of us is going to lose his ‘0' and it's not going to be me.”
Last year Hyland boxed superbly for the first six rounds against Stephen Ormond until a broken jaw from a clash of heads and a sustained rally from the Dubliner left him hanging on at the final bell.
“I had to dig deep,” he explained.
“I fought four rounds with a broken jaw after a clash of heads. I split my chin but I still fought on – I don't quit, I'm not a quitter.
“We'll see how he can fight once he's taken into the deep rounds. I'm expecting 12 hard rounds because he's a tough opponent.
“He wants to win this belt outright and I'm going to be doing everything to steal it off him.”
Meanwhile, Ritson denies that he has underestimated Hyland ahead of tonight's rumble at the Metro Radio Arena.
“He's just as tough as Cardle,” said Ritson.
“On paper Cardle had been in bigger fights but Paul is a bit fresher so I'd have them level-pegging.
“We're not underestimating him at all. I've trained well, it'll be a good tough fight and I'm looking forward to it. We'll see what he brings to the table.”
Riston intends to move up to European level after tonight's fight. The former electrician admitted that he considered quitting the sport last year when his partner was expecting a baby. He was broke and becoming frustrated with his inactivity.
“I handed in two CVs for factory work but luckily they didn't get back to me,” he explained.
“My girlfriend was pregnant and I was broke at the time, I had nothing. I was supposed to fight Robbie Barrett and they kept putting it back and postponing it.
“I had no money and I thought: ‘I'll have to go and work somewhere' and luckily Eddie Hearn came in and put the fight on before the bleach factory got back to me. I laugh at it now, but I could have been in that factory now packing bleach.”
The home favourite will have his work cut out tonight.
He is the bigger puncher but Hyland should be able to match him for boxing ability.
He may look to land a big shot early to stop Ritson from rushing in and if he stays on his toes and out of trouble he'll force the local man into mistakes and pick him off.
Hyland could win this if all goes to plan, but Ritson, on home turf, is well organised and super-fit and he has been so impressive in his last three fights that he has to start as favourite tonight.