Hartlepool too good for Liverpool? No, you are not dreaming – the headline says it all.
You won’t see it on the football field, certainly not in our lifetime, but in the ring it proved a different matter as Tommy Ward became the new British super-bantamweight champ after a dramatic and bloody victory on his championship and TV debut.
The challenger dethroned British king Jazza Dickens, in Leeds, on a technical decision.
Referee Michael Alexander was forced to halt a gripping contest in the opening stages of round nine after Ward suffered a nasty cut above his left eye following an accidental clash of heads, a wound which required eight stitches.
It meant the decision went to the judges’ scorecards and all three wise men at ringside scored it for the Hartlepool boxer – Victor Loughlin and Howard Foster both saw it 87-85 with John Keane awarding it to the challenger 88-84.
It was a dream come true for Ward, who avenged the British title defeat by brother, Martin, against Dickens 18 months earlier which, ironically, had also ended in a bloodbath.
The younger Ward, 23 today, turned pro at 18 after a glittering junior career buy without a single round in the adult ring.
But under the tutelage of trainer Neil Fannan and the management of Dave Garside, he has made incredibly quick progress and came of championship age in his 21st fight against an excellent fighter.
Less than 12 months ago, Dickens was sharing the ring with arguably the best pound-for-pound world title holder, WBA master Guillermo Rigondeaux.
And at the First Direct Arena, he was forced to concede second best to the new kid on the block.
Ward, blessed with breathtaking handspeed and movement, won it through his talent, but hailed the impact of the men who have handled his career from its infancy.
“I’m buzzing,” he said.
“It’s been a full team effort, from Neil and Dave who have been brilliant from the very start, promoter Phil Jeffries, my brothers, Martin and Jimmy, and my full family.
“The love and support I get from all of them is incredible, I can’t thank them enough.
“This was for Neil, especially. He’s been an inspiration.
“I know he’s won a lot already but it was so nice to get this.
“I hope Martin gets the European title soon.”
Tommy was quickly out of the blocks against the Scouse southpaw in front of the BT cameras.
His jab was deadly accurate and his right hand pretty sharp too in the opening two rounds and while Dickens got through with a few short lefts in the third session, Ward had the classier shots.
Round four was very cagey and the fifth similar, with Dickens plodding forward but Ward moving nicely, though both men landed two lovely combinations, Jazza a right-left and Tommy, a left-right.
A quality three-punch Ward salvo was THE moment of the sixth, but Dickens rallied in the seventh and eighth rounds and he seemed to be building the pressure, using his left hand to good effect.
But when the heads came together in the ninth, Mr Alexander took the NE Securities boxer to the corner to be inspected by the ringside order, who ordered the end.
“It was an accident,” Ward told SportMail. “It was just one of them things.
“I know the blood was flying out and I heard Martin say ‘it’s over’ and he was right.
“It’s a pity it ended as it did.
“It was a good fight, cagey, but good and I was confident I was winning it.
“But when it gets stopped and it goes to the cards like that, you are never sure how the judges are seeing it.
“Jazza was putting on some good pressure but I thought I was countering well.
“Obviously, that was how they were seeing it as well, Jazza was down by two to four rounds.”