STUART HALL proved a point to his detractors to lift the Commonwealth bantamweight title in an epic hometown fight.
Hall fought his first bout in his hometown since turning professional in 2008 and was a clear winner against Josh Wale, who overcame a mid-fight wobble to regain his composure.
Hall, eight years Wale's senior, defied the age gap at the Dolphin Centre to take a unanimous decision, and said: “It was a class performance. The critics say I'm 32 years old, I'm too old. Boom to them. Boom to them.
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“That's one of the best. I didn't turn up against Lee Haskins but I turned up tonight. I'm going to turn up every other fight. Every other fight. I had a point to prove tonight, to my critics, about my age, I'm slow and one-dimensional.
“Did you see me there, I'm not slow, I moved about, I don't walk in straight lines. Boom to the critics.”
Hall admitted he was surprised that Wale did not come at him more, but was nevertheless delighted with his and trainer Mick Marsden's hard work paying off.
He said: “I expected a tough 12 rounds to be honest, as he's a tough opponent, but I thought he was going to have a bit more of a go. Before the fight I thought he'd be a lot stronger, but he wasn't as strong. Your mind plays tricks before a fight.
“Once I'd found my rhythm I was brilliant, everything went to plan.
“I was always in control. Everytime he had a success I had a sneaky breather. I want a rematch with Jamie McDonnell now, that's the plan. Hopefully he wins a world title and I'll get him again.
But I'm going to listen to what Mick Marsden says and take it from there.”
Hall had to be patient against his Barnsley opponent.
As expected, Wale went on the attack from the off and caught his opponent with a right hook which sent Hall into an early stumble.
But the Lonsdale belt holder came back into it, picking his shots in the second and third before going on the attack in the fourth as Wale tired.
However, his opponent, with a vocal support from South Yorkshire, rallied and had Hall on the ropes in the fifth. Hall defended well, made a couple of uppercuts count and rallied before the bell.
The pair tentatively traded blows in the sixth round, with Hall waiting to take his chance against the ailing Wale, whose four career defeats before last night included two knockouts.
By the ninth, Hall was well on top, and it only seemed to be a matter of time. Not so. Hall sensed his moment in the tenth, roaring out from the bell to land two right hooks, but was made to wait.
Wale had rallied by the 11th and went on the attack himself, leaving Hall to rue the chances he had earlier in the fight to put his opponent down.
Left and right hooks put Wale on the ropes in the 12th, but again his opponent, showing great resilience, came back at Hall before the final bell.
Meanwhile, Darlington's Neil Hepper bounced back from his defeat to Gary Fox in Hartlepool to record a points victory over Arturas Zbarauskas.
Earlier, Easington's Paul Archer saw off Billy Smith, taking a deserved points victory over his journeyman opponent, while Middlesbrough pair Shafiq Azif and Mohammed Waqas both made easy work of their bouts against Matt Seawright and Delroy Spencer, securing points victories.