It marks the beginning of what will hopefully be an exceptional professional career, the resurrection of a former champion and the continued progression of a boxer relentlessly pursuing the ultimate prize of a world title fight.
Step into the floodlights at the Utilita Arena in Newcastle on Friday night, bringing North East high hopefuls Pat McCormack, Lewis Ritson and Thomas Patrick Ward.
McCormack, for so long the scintillating centerpiece of British amateur boxing and an Olympic silver medalist last time out, makes his paid debut against Nicaraguan Danny Mendoza just opposite the Birtley club’s Tyne where he honed his skills.
READ MORE: When is Lewis Ritson vs Dejan Zlaticanin? Date, time, TV channel and live stream details
Pat had a stellar amateur career that saw him win gold at the Commonwealth Games and silver at the World Amateur Championships and European Championships as well as his Olympic medal in Tokyo.
Ritson, once extremely highly rated British lightweight champion, crashed to earth when he unsuccessfully challenged for the European crown and then got beaten in a world welterweight eliminator, but he’s a big puncher who trains at home where the heart believes even better days could lie ahead.
An avid Newcastle United supporter, Lewis is sure to have the crowd on his side as he looks to build on his latest win over Christian Uruzquieta over experienced Montenegrin fighter Dejan Zlaticanin (24-3, 16 KOs).
If McCormack and Ritson seek inspiration with the self-confidence so important to any progress, then it’s there to be had. Many boxers who missed out on long-awaited Olympic gold like Pat found a more than acceptable silver lining to become notable world champions. Riddick Bowe, Amir Khan, Ingemar Johansson, Chris Byrd, Roy Jones Jnr and John Mugabi have all come from a silver medal. Indeed, legends Evander Holyfield and Floyd Mayweather Jnr only won bronze at their Olympics.
As for Ritson, his comforting thought, if needed, is that Glenn McCrory at one point lost five out of six fights, but after changing weight divisions he himself became a world champion.
West Rainton stylist Thomas Patrick Ward must be wondering what more he needs to do to clinch the world super bantamweight title with, like him, an unbeaten record of 32 fights, 31 wins and a draw caused by an accidental clash of heads.
He has already taken the logical steps by becoming British and European champion. Ward produced a dominant display as usual against Venezuelan Leonardo Padilla in his last contest, but some would say his lack of explosive firepower – a reliable punch – makes him less of a draw away from his territory.
Yet another former Birtley star, he does everything else well. He has good feet, quick hands, handles distance well and doesn’t get hit much. The man facing the delicate task of overthrowing Ward for the very first time is Alexis Boureima Kaboré.
Promoters Probellum also have Troy Williamson defending his British super welterweight title with Ben Rees, like McCormack, making his professional debut and Mark Dickinson having his third fight after leaving the amateurs.
Williamson (17-0-1, 13 KOs), from Darlington, became British champion with an eye-catching knockout victory over Ted Cheeseman in October 2021. Mason Cartwright is his challenger.
Birtley’s stature as one of Britain’s most successful star-makers – similar to the Wallsend Boys Club in football – is underscored by a Bill which has no less than four of their former boys in Ward , McCormack, Rees and Dickinson.
There have been many parades of exceptional fighters from the North East over the years, from seaman Tommy Watson, Cast Iron Casey and Benny Sharkey to Maurice Cullen, George Bowes and Teddy Gardner to star trio Glenn McCrory, Billy Hardy and John Davison and finally Jon -Lewis Dickinson and Stuart Hall. Who will be next on the red carpet? And can anyone do better than most and match world champions McCrory and Hall?