A MAN told of his horror last night after a former successful boxer was killed at a party he was hosting.

Online tributes have poured in for Mark Denton, once ranked England's second best amateur middleweight boxer, who was very well known in his home town of Hartlepool.

Cleveland Police launched a murder inquiry after Mr Denton, who was 31, died at the party on Hutton Avenue, near the town centre. Detectives have refused to confirm reports that the popular boxer had been stabbed.

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However a 27-year-old man who hosted the party at his grandmother’s former house, which is empty and up for sale, said he saw Mr Denton with what appeared to be “bad cuts” to his head, face, chest and his neck. Mr Denton was taken to hospital after the attack at 10.20am on New Year’s Eve but died a short time later.

The man who held the party said Mr Denton arrived at the party, on the same street where former MP Peter Mandelson once had his constituency home, at about 10pm with his girlfriend and a small group of friends.

He said: “There was a group of lads who had been there for a while and when Mark and his friends came in it was a bit rowdy, a bit of tension between the two groups. There were maybe 30-odd people in the house.

“I went to the toilet and, it must have been five minutes later I came down to see all these people streaming out. I was saying, ‘what’s happening, what’s happening?’ but everyone was just getting out of there.

“Someone said, ‘call the police, it’s a blood bath in there.’ “I walked in the room. There was blood everywhere.

“There were two girls trying to tend to his wounds. One was his girlfriend, she was distraught. He must still have been conscious because he moved, he laid his forehead on the ground and went on his knees. The neck wound seemed to be the worst.

“The police were there in a minutes and the ambulance a bit longer. The police just took everybody out of there. It was horrible.”

The man said he didn’t know Mark Denton well, but had been on good terms with him. “He always seemed quite moral to me. He would stop anyone bullying anyone, things like that. He had a good heart. He certainly had a lot of friends.

“I’m in shock, but others who were actually there at the time of the attack were worse, the lad doing the music for example was crying.”

Savannah Marshall, the women's world boxing champion, knew Mr Denton from many years training with him at the Headland Boxing Club in the town. She said: “My heart goes out to his family and friends.”

A special Facebook page for Mr Denton has dozens of tributes. One, from Ian Glass, said: “Always polite, well-spoken and respectful to everybody in the gym: the real you. What a pleasure it was to say you’re my friend. Good night, God bless mark. Amen brother.”

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said a post mortem examination revealed he had died from an injury sustained during the incident. Addresses across Hartlepoolhave been searched in connection with the investigation.

Detective Chief Inspector Anne-Marie Salwey, who is leading the investigation, said: “Our thoughts are with Mark’s family at this particularly sad time, who are being supported by specially trained officers.

“I would particularly appeal for anyone who was at the party last night and who we haven’t yet spoken to, to get in touch.”

A Major Incident Room has been established and anyone with information should contact 01642 302198 or the non-emergency number 101.

* Two men aged 17 and 23 and a third man in his twenties have all been arrested on suspicion of murder and are being questioned by police.