NORTH-EAST fighter Lewis Ritson claimed the WBA Intercontinental Super-Lightweight title in controversial fashion after defeating Miguel Vasquez by a split points decision in Peterborough.

Vasquez appeared to keep South Shields’ Ritson at bay throughout the 12 rounds at the East of England Arena, with his movement and body shots wearing his opponent down.

However, when it came to the judges’ verdict, Ritson was selected as the winner despite most neutral observers expecting the call to go the other way.

Ritson started brightly, but struggled to connect with any combinations as Vasquez, who made his professional debut against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in 2006, used his experience to apply the pressure with constant jabs.

The 33-year-old had racked up 39 fights by the time Ritson made his debut in April 2015, and the Geordie boxer could not come to grips with Vasquez’s jockeying style.

Vasquez stepped up in the 11th round and landed two powerful left hooks but Ritson dug in bravely in what appeared a routine victory for the former IBF Lightweight World champion.

Vasquez had lost four of his previous seven, including on his last two visits to Great Britain, ahead of this fight, and was shocked as only one judge scored the bout in his favour – 116-113 – with the other two judges scoring 117-111 and 115-113 to Ritson.

“It just depends what you like doesn’t it,” said Ritson. “He was tapping me and running away. I was hitting him with the cleaner jabs. It was very frustrating being out the gym a year and then facing that style.

“It was probably more awkward than I thought it was going to be. The more the fight went on, the more frustrated I got. It was a big eye-opener. We’ve been mentioning the (Regis) Prograis fight, tonight was a bit of an eye-opener that we’re a million miles off that fight.

“We need a couple more fights like Vazquez, maybe not his style. That’s what you get when you step up. We had a hard job doing it. I’m improving as a fighter, but I’ve got a lot more improving to do.”

On the undercard, Benwell’s Joe Laws lost his unbeaten record against Rylan Charlton. Fan-favourite Laws was sent crashing to the canvas three times in a third-round wipe-out.

Charlton hurt Laws with a body shot in the earliest exchange then floored him with a left hook in the opening round. Laws never recovered – Charlton did major damage with the second knock-down then landed a massive uppercut which ended the fight in brutal fashion.

‘The Benwell Bomber’ Laws entered wearing his trademark Mexican attire and sporting a nine-fight perfect record but experienced the most punishing night of his short career against the ‘Pint Size Powerhouse’ Charlton.

West Rainton’s Thomas Patrick Ward survived a horror cut in his draw with Thomas Essomba, but lost his status as Britain’s most in-form fighter.

The County Durham super-bantamweight, trained by Neil Fannon alongside Ritson in Hartlepool, arrived at the East of England Arena with a perfect 29-0 record and both eyes on a World title shot in 2021.

But an accidental clash of heads in round seven took the fight to the cards early and the three judges could not split the rivals.