Hall determined to defend his world title in the North-East

The Northern Echo: WORLD CHAMPION: Stuart Hall claimed the IBF World Bantamweight crown when he beat Vusi Malinga on Saturday night WORLD CHAMPION: Stuart Hall claimed the IBF World Bantamweight crown when he beat Vusi Malinga on Saturday night

STUART HALL has pledged to make the first defence of his IBF World Bantamweight title in the North-East after creating sporting history in Leeds on Saturday night.

Almost 25 years after Glenn McCrory became the only other North-Easterner to win a world crown, Darlington fighter Hall outpointed South African Vusi Malinga to claim the vacant IBF belt.

An epic encounter saw Hall knock Malinga to the floor midway through the third round, only for his opponent to rally in the latter stages of the fight and inflict a deep cut above his left eye.

By the final two rounds, Hall could barely see out of his wounded eye, but he continued charging forward and was proclaimed the unanimous winner.

He is expected to defend his title within the next six months, and after more than 1,000 of his fans travelled south to Leeds' First Direct Arena to watch this weekend's contest, he is determined that his next fight will be a little closer to home.

“I'd love to fight in the North-East next,” said Hall, who did not turn professional until he was 28, and whose first pro contest saw him fight in front of a handful of spectators in the Engineers' Club on Darlington's North Road. “Winning this world title has been the best moment of my career by a mile, but defending it somewhere in the North-East would be even better.

“There's Newcastle or maybe even the Arena in Darlington – it would be great to pack out somewhere in the North-East for a world title fight next year.

“The crowd that came down here to support me deserve that – they deserve to see a massive fight on their doorstep. North-East boxing hasn't had a night like that for a long while, so let's bring it back.”

The Northern Echo: Stuart Hall is presented with the IBF belt after his points win over Vusi Malinga

Hall's preferred option would be to defend his title in The Northern Echo Arena, but an outdoor venue would present difficulties for a fight in the spring.

Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena is a more likely setting, and the 33-year-old's promoter, Dennis Hobson, is already working on potential options for a voluntary defence.

Given that Saturday's contest is likely to be named British Fight of the Year, there will be pressure to stage a rematch with Malinga, although if that occurs at all, it is likely to happen further down the line.

Similarly, Hall's camp will not be rushing into a domestic match with Jamie McDonnell, who relinquished the IBF title in controversial fashion when he was unable to agree the terms of his mandatory challenge.

“We'll work out the exact details in the next few weeks and months, but Stuart deserves a homecoming,” said Hobson. “He deserves his moment in the spotlight, and if that means him wanting to fight in the North-East, then that's what we'll deliver.

“I've been involved in some great nights in boxing, and I've worked with some great fighters, but that absolutely topped the lot. We knew it was going to be a great fight because of the way both boxers box, but I don't think anyone thought it would be that good.

“You never want to tempt fate, but we've been talking about possible future fights for Stuart for a little while now, and there are some very appealing options out there. He's a world champion now and his profile is set to absolutely rocket.”

Hall is Britain's fourth current world champion, and Saturday's success means he is the oldest British boxer ever to win a world title at the first attempt.

His speed and aggression made the difference, with the powerful right that floored Malinga in the third round underlining just how much he has improved since he suffered the only two defeats of his career in late 2011 and the summer of 2012.

His record now stands at 16 wins and a draw from 19 contests, but his most recent success was easily the hardest earned as he had to withstand a barrage of powerful blows from Malinga in the second half of the fight.

He never stopped pouring forward though, and his commitment and heart enabled him to remain on the front foot despite fatigue inevitably setting in.

“I thought my last fight was tough, and obviously I lost to Jamie McDonnell, but this man (Malinga) is miles tougher than anything I've ever come across,” said Hall. “I put him down, but he got back up.

“He hurt me loads, and the man is a true warrior. It was a great fight, and I had to really dig in. I was tired at times and panicked a bit sometimes, but I just dug in. I wanted it so much.

“I couldn't see for the last two rounds. I was fighting with one eye, and he was aiming for my eye because he knew. He was targeting it. It will take a few days for it to sink in but I've done it. To all those doubters out there, I've done it.

“I won the British title and, when I did that, that was like winning the world title for me. But I've continued improving and taking on every fight I've been offered, and now I've got my reward.”

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