WORLD CHAMPION Stuart Hall and beaten challenger Martin Ward have both apologised to North-East fight fans after their title bout ended in surprising circumstances.
Hall retained his IBF bantamweight title at the Metro Radio Arena, after the fight was called a technical draw - halted only 35 seconds into round two.
Ward suffered a cut during an accidental first round clash of heads and, such was the depth and nature of the wound, he was unable to carry on.
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The electric atmosphere instantly fell flat, leaving the crowd stunned.
Hall, of Darlington, admitted: “I’m gutted how it’s turned out, the crowd have been robbed of a great fight. It happens and I don’t know what to say, it’s one of those things.
“I’m still champion and that’s the main thing.
“I felt strong and started good, was just getting warmed up. I felt like there was strength in there.
“I feel in a daze and this has never happened before.’’ And challenger Ward, from West Rainton, added: “Fight fans have been robbed of a good fight. That would have been a terrific fight and it had high-scoring rounds written all over it.
“It was going to be a hell of a fight. He feels deprived of showing his world class and I feel deprived I haven’t been able to prove I’m at the same level - and I believe I am.
“The North-East still has a world champion in a good fighter in Stuey Hall and is the best bantamweight in the world.
“I believe he will keep his belt for longer.
“I have five stitches on the inside, nine on the outside. It’s no-one’s fault, a clash of heads and it is what it is.
“We both apologise to the fans. He is a true champion.
“We both are sorry for the fans who missed out on what could have been a classic.’’
Promoter Dennis Hobson said: “We have been robbed of a bit of drama. It's the first time in history, a world title of two North-East kids together and we’ve been robbed.
“The passion and atmosphere was tremendous – it was like Las Vegas in the North-East. There was a sense of expectation we were robbed of it.
“The cut was deep and dangerous and Stuart is growing in stature. He looked a mountain at bantamweight and looked so strong. He is going to take some beating.
“People say about rematch, but that’s a bad cut and he will need plastic surgery on that. It’s all about timing.’’