DARLINGTON'S world champion Stuart Hall could be in line for a summer rumble at the Metro Radio Arena, although the date is likely to come too soon for a rematch with North-East rival Martin Ward.
Ward's hopes of impressing on the big stage came to a premature end on Saturday night when an accidental clash of heads between two of the region's best boxers brought an early finish to the IBF bantamweight title contest.
It meant Hall's first defence of the belt he won heroically in December ended in a technical draw, but still retained the crown and talks are planned this week to discuss his next move.
The Hall camp hope he will be ready for his second fight as world champion by June and the likelihood is that he will be up against a foreign opponent, rather than old foe Jamie McDonnell.
There had been approaches made before the fight from McDonnell to face Hall in a money-spinning outing on the undercard of the Carl Froch versus George Groves show at Wembley at the end of May.
But if Hall is to keep his belt then a more likely mandatory opponent would be the winner of this Friday's official eliminator between Californian Randy Caballero and Japan's Kohei Oba in Kobe.
"We've got to talk to the IBF and see if there's a bit of leeway with the date,” said promoter Dennis Hobson. “If there's a mandatory (defence), we will fight the mandatory.
"As a man Stuart's very strong and that will take some breaking. I don't have any qualms at putting him in with any bantamweight in the world.
"We've got a very credible champion in the North-East and the positive thing is there's still a world champion in the North-East even after what happened in Newcastle.”
Since turning professional, Hall has travelled around the country in an attempt to work his way to the top. The further he has progressed, the more supporters he has gained and more than 5,000 were inside the Arena to see the Ward fight.
Having seen the contest cruelly cut short so early, Hobson hinted the aim is for the area to have another opportunity to see Hall in full flow next time around.
"There were a lot of non-believers in Stuart but he had a very tight team who believed in him and now all of a sudden he has quite a few believers,” said Hobson. “If anybody gets a shot at the title they have got to come here.
"He's the champion and we're going to back him 100 per cent. Too many promoters are happy to cash their kids in. He has more friends than he ever thought he had.
"Nobody can beat Stuey Hall at bantamweight. It would be good for us to get Stuart in Darlington but Newcastle is a special place. It's like the capital of the north.”
While discussions take place to plot the next move, there was an overall feeling of disappointment on Saturday night when Ward's hopes of proving a few people wrong soon disappeared.
The underdog from West Rainton, County Durham, was determined to show that he could mix it on the world stage. But those aspirations were soon shattered when he suffered the nasty cut above his right eye in the first round. Moments in to the second, the contest was stopped and he had to head for the doctor to receive ten superficial stitches.
Ward, 26, said: "I believe I'm world-class. I'm still Commonwealth champion so I'm pretty sure I will defend that. I'm pretty sure Stuey will defend his title, so if I'm still Commonwealth champion and he's still world champion I don't see why we can't fight again in the future.”
There is a lot of work to be done before that can happen, although Hall would be more than happy to give Ward the opportunity to become the first boxer from a travelling background to win a world title.
Hall, 34, said: "I will definitely give him a rematch. He deserves it. I will give him a rematch, it's only fair. The North-East would love it. They were robbed. It's like Froch and Groves.”
Ward's head wound means he is, though, unlikely to be ready in time for the summer. Hall's manager/trainer Michael Marsden said: “I would say Stu will be ready by the back end of June, July, he could be back. I want him to rest as much as we can before he goes again.
“He has trained really hard since November. He was in an absolute war with Vusi Malinga in December and it has been an effort to get him ready for now.
“No disrespect to Martin, but he is not a physical fighter, we will have to see how it goes. But Stu needs a rest but we will make sure he is ready for his next defence whoever that is against.”