STUART Hall’s rise from Ibiza party animal to world boxing champion was the stuff of Roy of the Rovers.
And the 34-year-old from Darlington was today requiring another great comic book-style comeback.
Hall lost his IBF title to Ellesmere Port’s Paul Butler in an absolute belter at the Metro Radio Arena.
The defending champ suffered a controversial split decision at the sharp hands of the unbeaten Cheshire boxer who has stepped up from super-flyweight.
Two of the judges marked the 12-round classic 115-113, England’s Dave Parris going with Butler and Switzerland’s Beat Hausammann siding with Hall.
But the third judge, Berit Andreasen, went 117-111 Butler.
It looked a ludicrous scoreline at the time and it still does - to say Hall won only three of the rounds beggars belief.
But many of the rounds were incredibly close and therefore difficult to call.
This reporter had Hall up by two rounds, so too did the BBC Tees commentary team of Rob Law and Billy Hardy.
Other North-East journalists like Stuart Rayner, Paul Fraser and John Hannen had Hall ahead.
But respected BoxNation commentator John Rawling had Butler up by three points, so too did Boxing News reporter Danny Flexen.
Sunderland fight figure Tommy Conroy, who has forgotten more about boxing than this reporter will ever know, saw Butler as the winner.
There will be talk of a re-match, but that could be some way off and, at 34, time is not on the side of the Darlo warrior.
But there are other belts and fights out there and family man Hall is likely to have to look at alternatives to the world title.
One thing is for sure, he did his reputation absolutely no harm on Saturday night.
He fought all the way through to the last bell against the 25 year-old.
The North-East’s first world champ, Glenn McCrory, thought the fight was too soon for Butler and this reporter thought he was too small to beat Hall.
But the away fighter, managed by Frank Warren, boxed superbly, winning the first three rounds in emphatic fashion.
Thereafter, it was a real fight and I felt the greater industry and accuracy of Hall gave him the edge.
Yes, Butler had the speed and almost every round he would let fly with a volley of shots.
Some of them were good, but some shots missed or were taken on the gloves by Hall, so were not scoring punches.
They were short bursts whereas Hall produced the greater volume.
But some of the rounds were very close and it would be hard to say Hall was robbed though the scoreline of the Denmark judge will be hard to swallow.
Hall was not the only North-East fighter to lose his belt.
Birtley’s British cruiserweight champion Jon Lewis Dickinson was stopped at the end of the second round by Ovill McKenzie, the Commonwealth title holder, in their unification contest.
McKenzie, with ‘Upsetter’ written on his shorts, floored Dickinson with the final punch of round two.
Dickinson was up as the bell sounded but referee Victor Loughlin was obliged to give him a count.
And with the 28-year-old looking very wobbly, Mr Loughlin had no option but to wave it off.
It was not all bad for the North-East.
Hetton’s Jordan King stopped game Lithuanian Vaidas Balciauska in two rounds and Josh Leather extended his unbeaten run to five with his best win to date, a points success over Liverpool’s Tommy Carus.
Leather, from Guisborough, but trained in Stockton and Hartlepool, was put under pressure for the first time in his career but emerged with a 58-56 win from judge Andrew Wright.