GARY Fox could not win his second pro title or give trainer Neil Fannan a silver lining to the dark cloud hanging over the camp after the sad end to Martin Ward’s world championship challenge.
Fox was stopped in the eighth round by Kirk Goodings in the Sunderland boxer’s maiden defence of his English lightweight belt.
The North-East derby had been scheduled to take place early on the card at the Metro Radio Arena.
But after being gloved up and ready to go out at 7pm, they were told they would not box until after Ward v Stuart Hall ended.
And, fair play to the rivals, they were not put off as they produced one of the most entertaining bouts of the night.
Fox had warned Goodings he would give him the “hiding of his life” and the Fishburn crowd favourite set off at a great pace.
And while the promised pasting did not matrialise, the Fannan fighter certainly looked good, being the aggressor in the first two rounds.
And in the third, a right-left-right had his noisy support cheering
But Goodings was beginning to find his range and boxing on the back foot, landed some accurate shots.
Round five was nearly all grapple and impossible to score but the sixth and seventh sessions were both lively.
They followed the same pattern, the 28-year-old challenger ploughing forward relentlessly but Goodings doing the sharper punching, including an eye-catching left to the body just before the bell.
That set the tone for round eight when the 24-year-old Wearsider
connected with head shot after head shot. The life seemed to drain out of Fox who, this time, came back with nothing.
And with two minutes, 34 seconds on the clock of Stewart Lithgo, referee Marcus McDonnell halted the bout.
There were no complaints from Fox, who had justified his crack at the title, but was forced to concede second best.
Bradley Saunders dished out something of a beating to Mitch Prince in a light-welterweight battle due for 10 rounds.
The way the undefeated 28-year-old launched his second-ever appearance in front of his adoring North-East public, there was little chance Prince would hear the final bell.
A left-right combination put the Scot down in the first and after getting back up, the impetuous Saunders then smashed him through the ropes with a thumping shot to the midrift.
In this reporter’s view, the former Olympian did his best work in the second round, when he used his jab and mixed class with power.
He looked a little too keen for a third-round finish but the inevitable arrived in the fourth.
Twice, he sent Prince to the canvas and twice the underdog was up at the count of eight.
But when the Frank Warren star put him down for a third time just seconds later, referee Andrew Wright did not even bother to start a count, halting the contest one minute, 10 seconds in.
It was the Sedgefield lad’s ninth straight win and the seventh inside the distance.
The event was not the best organised and that was highlighted when Hartlepool prospect Tommy Ward made it seven wins out of seven against Qasim Hussain in the show opener – before the crowd had even been allowed in.
Ward had beaten the Sheffield fighter last time out in Newcastle in December, but the 19-year-old Fannan and Dave Garside starlet was even better at the Metro Radio Arena.
A 40-36 scoreline from Billingham referee Graeme Williams was no surprise.
Guisborough’s Josh Leather, currently based in Hartlepool where he trains under the expert guidance of top conditioning coach, Ian Glass, outpointed Wiltshire journeyman Dan Carr.
And Birtley’s Jon-Lewis Dickinson earned a Lonsdale belt outright with his third successful British cruiserweight title defence, stopping Rotherham’s Neil Dawson in round 10.