A packed Harvey Hadden Stadium saw Newark’s Chad Sugden win the biggest fight of his pro boxing career so far on Saturday 6 July.
The Suggy’s Gym Light Heavyweight defeated former Commonwealth champion Luke Blackledge in the eight-round Main Event on the card of BRAGGING RIGHTS, a victory which saw Chad rocket up to number 10 in the UK rankings.
Originally scheduled to face an unbeaten Nottingham prospect for the vacant East Midlands title, Chad lost his original opponent to injury just three weeks before the event.
“We were determined not to disappoint all of Chad’s fans and followers who’d already bought tickets so when the opportunity to go up against Luke arose, we leapt at the chance,” said his head coach Dean Sugden. “Yes, it was a massive gamble, with Chad going into the bout ranked number 27 in Britain and Luke at number 9 with 26 wins and only 6 losses, the latter all at World level, on his record.
“There’s no doubt some thought this was a bridge too far for Chad, especially as he was coming back after seven months out due to injury. But not Team Sugden – Luke was already on our shopping list for the end of the year and, having trained in anticipation of the biggest, toughest fight to date, we were confident Chad could live up to his promise to put on a boxing master class on the night, even though a lot of the pundits saw Luke as a massive favourite going into the contest.”
Boxing over eight rounds for the first time, Chad took control from the outset, quickly finding his range and timing. Out-boxing his opponent and making him miss, he seemed to sail through the first four rounds, dominating Luke with some slick boxing and level changes. At the end of the second, Chad knocked down his opponent and everyone was surprised when the referee failed to give Luke a count.
Although Luke was pushing hard, a lot of his punches were missing Chad, sometimes by the smallest of margins. Picking up on the fact that the Nottinghamshire boxer seemed to take his foot off the pedal in rounds five and six, the Lancashire man tried to get physical and, despite the fact that Chad responded and never looked in any trouble, these were the only two rounds he lost on the referees’ score cards.
With two more to go, it was clearly heading towards an exciting finish as Luke came on strong, probably thinking his opponent was tiring. But Chad had an answer for everything thrown at him and used his slick boxing to win the seventh.
Unsure how the fight was being scored, he went out fast in the eighth and, although Luke met fire with fire, the Suggy’s Gym boxer was making his miss by inches and landing the cleaner shots.
In an explosive exchange in the final minute, Chad bent his legs and went toe to toe with Luke. Despite being caught a few times, Chad returned with more eye-catching punches of his own and in the last seconds of the bout rocked his opponent with the very last punch thrown.
At the final bell, the crowd was on its feet showing its appreciation of a fantastic display of boxing and determination which saw both boxers giving everything they had and leaving it all in the ring.
Speaking after Chad was declared the winner by taking six rounds out of the eight with 78 points to 74, Luke paid tribute to his skill and strength as a boxer, declaring that he felt he still had plenty of big fights in him but probably would not welcome one quite as hard as that.
Scott Robinson, who is widely recognised as the best nutritionist in the business and worked with Chad throughout his training camp, congratulated him on a superb performance, saying: “I’m absolutely delighted for Chad. He took on a British top 10 fighter with confidence, courage and style, coming away with a wide points victory after scoring one – and arguably two – knockdowns to secure his place in the top 10 best British Light Heavyweights.”
“Chad performed brilliantly tonight but I still believe there’s another 35 per cent to come, which is a scary prospect given how he just schooled and defeated a very capable, game opponent in Luke,” added John Costello, trainer of WBA World Super Middleweight challenger Jamie Cox.
Promoter Scott Calow commented: “The Main Event more than lived up to expectations, an absolute classic between Chad and Luke. Both boxers went all out to put it on the line in an exciting contest which saw Chad take the win and, at just 25-years old, become the youngest boxer in the UK’s top 10.”
Replying to the comments and accolades, Chad said: “To beat a name like Luke Blackledge in my first fight over eight rounds is a great feeling. And knowing that I’m now in the top 10 puts me in the mix with the best in Britain which is where I belong.”
Back in Newark after the show, his proud coach and father Dean paid tribute to the fans and followers who turned out in force to support their local hero. “We were blown away by their response, they were going absolutely wild from start to finish and at times the bell couldn’t even be heard at the end of the rounds.
“It may have seemed like a risky fight to take and certainly a lot of people who don’t know Chad thought we’d bitten off more than we could chew. But as soon as it began, everyone started to realise that he’s the real deal and the accolades have been coming in thick and fast ever since.
“For Chad to out-box Luke like that and still have more to come is really exciting and we’re all buzzing for the future. His performance on Saturday has propelled him into the mix with the top 10 British Light Heavyweights and we’ve already put in an official challenge for the English title. After such an emphatic win against a former Commonwealth champion, I’d be very surprised if we don’t become the official mandatory.”
Pictures by Dan Kelly, DKO Action Imagery