A sold-out Kings Hall cheered Nathan Heaney to the IBO Continental super-middleweight championship on another memorable night for Stoke fight fans.
Heaney sold an astonishing 775 tickets to his supporters and the 30-year-old, from Trentham, sent them all home happy by outpointing Malta’s determined Christian Schembri over 10 rounds.
“This title belongs to Stoke,” said Heaney after his 10th straight win.
The margin of victory for Heaney was wide on the scorecards, but he admitted: “Every round was competitive. He was very tough. He made me work.
“I thought I was breaking him down in every round, but his will was so strong.”
Heaney ended the fight with a cut around his right eye after heads clashed in the last minute – and bruised knuckles.
For round after round, he hit Schembri with every punch in the book.
Heaney slammed solid hooks and uppercuts off Schembri’s jaw, cut him over the left eye, hurt him numerous times when he dug in hard body punches and still Schembri was never discouraged.
Schembri didn’t have any success of his own until the seventh when he was able to get close enough to land some body punches.
Heaney took them all and, as is usually the way, he finished the fight stronger.
He sent shivers down Schembri’s legs in the ninth with a clean left hook to the chin, but by then, Heaney had accepted he would be going the full 10 rounds for the third time in four fights and boxed his way to the final bell.
Heaney described his supporters as “the best in the country” – and only Josh Warrington can really argue with that.
Warrington has been roared to the IBF featherweight title by his passionate Leeds supporters and like Warrington, Heaney is a fit, honest and proud fighter who gives his many supporters value for money.
Heaney’s victory makes him the first Stoke fighter to win the IBO Continental belt – and he also might have made another bizarre piece of history.
During the sixth round, referee Howard Foster told off Heaney for singing.
Tyson Fury and many others have been warned for talking to opponents, but as his hundreds of supporters belted out Stoke City anthems, Heaney found himself joining in.
Heaney said: “As a Stoke fan, when I hear the crowd sing ‘Delilah’ I want to join in. I hear the roar and I just want to join in. I could see everyone on the VIP tables going mental when I started singing along. They were entertained – and that’s what I want.”
Heaney wants the country’s leading promoters to bring the television cameras to the King’s Hall.
“Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren haven’t got any undercard fighters that get the support I get,” he said.
“We went to Birmingham for a BT Sport show last year and we took over the place.
“They should come to Stoke. I think we have something different here.”
Heaney is getting noticed for his exciting fights, feverish support – and his ring walks.
As always, he walked to the ring bare chested and singing ‘Delilah’ at the top of his voice. Footage on social media reached 150,000 views within 24 hours.
Heaney said: “I always hoped this might happen. I remember doing that when the Kings Hall was half full and thinking: ‘I want this place to be full one day’. I always want to entertain – and be a bit different.”
Also at the Kings Hall, Cole Johnson, Luke Caci and Kieron McLaren all came through good tests.
Johnson had dominated his first five opponents – winning every round – but was made to work harder when he stepped up to six rounds to face Sean Davis, a former English champion from Birmingham.
Johnson took a round to find his range and after that, the 25-year-old lightweight was able to make Davis fall short and walk him on to punches.
Davis was always in the fight and landed enough right hands to win the last round on the referee’s scorecard.
Caci also faced willing opposition. The Newcastle-under-Lyme super-middleweight was better than Sergei Bannov in every department, but whenever it looked like the Newcastle-under-Lyme fighter was about to take over, the spirited Estonian fired back.
Caci deservedly won every round on the referee’s scorecard for a 10th straight win.
Less clear cut was Kieron McLaren’s points win over Lee Connelly in a hard four-rounder.
The Stoke lightweight won the first round clearly enough – before the fight changed early in the second.
Connelly cracked a right hand off the Stoke fighter’s jaw that gave him encouragement and after that, he got on the front foot. McLaren boxed well under pressure, blocking and countering with flurries and picking Connelly off when his feet slowed in the last, but still, he had to work hard to win the rounds.