LEE Churcher brought the house down at the Newport Centre on Saturday night as he knocked out Barrie Jones to claim the vacant Welsh middleweight title.
Now 31, Newport favourite Churcher knows time is running out for him to make an impact on the sport and match the achievements of his St Josephs stablemates Gary Buckland and Lee Selby to British and Commonwealth titles.
After claiming the British Masters belt with victory over Chris Brophy at the same venue in October last year, victory over Jones to add the Welsh strap to his collection was a big step in the right direction.
Churcher looks now to have fully recovered from the shock knockout loss to Costas Osben at the Pill Millennium Centre last July with four successive victories on his record.
The win over Jones may not have pleased trainer Tony Borg, who thought his man should have finished the job much earlier than the ninth round, but a win is a win and Churcher can be proud of a job that was eventually well done.
Ferndale’s Jones was a step up in class for the Pill Puncher having been in the ring with quality boxers like Liam Smith, Jason Cook, Tony Doherty, Young Mutley, Souleymane M'baye and Kell Brook.
He lost all those fights but at 27, four years younger than Churcher but with five more years in the ring, there were many who thought his superior experience would see him to victory.
But after an extremely cagey first eight rounds in which neither fighter seemed will to take much of a risk it was Churcher who finally grasped the contest by the scruff of the neck and went in for the kill.
Finally showing some aggression after much encouragement from his vociferous fans and his corner he caught Jones with a right hand over the top and his opponent was instantly in trouble.
The Welsh light-middleweight champ tried to recover but his legs had gone and referee Wynford Jones stepped in to stop the fight with one minute and 31 seconds remaining in the penultimate round.
That was the cue for wild celebrations amongst Churcher’s camp as he fell to the canvas overcome with joy.
"Words can’t describe how I feel. I’m speechless and that’s not like me," he said. "The amount of hard work I’ve put into this is unbelievable but having this belt round my waist makes it all worthwhile."
Trainer Borg was pleased with the final outcome but knows Churcher is capable of so much more.
"It was a good result in the end but he should have got it done earlier," said Borg.
I know he’s a big strong fighter but he lacks confidence.
"At the moment he’s a gym fighter. I’ve been telling him that there have been loads of them down the years and he doesn’t want to be known as one of them.
"He’s fantastic in the gym but just doesn’t produce it in the ring.
"He showed what he can do in the ninth round but there were too many rounds where he just didn’t do enough," he added.
"He was sparring in there and it’s annoying to watch because we know what he can do.
"But he pulled it out of the bag in the end and it’s another belt for the gym.
"We need a nice big trophy cabinet now."
Churcher agreed with his trainer but says he is improving with every fight.
"It was hard because he just didn’t want to fight," explained Churcher.
"He was just jabbing and moving all the time and it was hard to get my shots off. In the end I got so impatient that I went after him.
"I was trying to box him and pick my shots but it wasn’t working so in the corner they just told me to go for it.
"I caught him and I knew straight away he was gone," he added. "It was a right-hander over the top – probably the first meaningful one I landed – and I knew he was gone. That’s why they call me ‘lights out’.
"I’m over the moon. I feel the pressure on fight night and its hard to perform but it will come.
"It’s another belt and I’m Welsh champion. It feels good but now I need a break.
"I know I’ve got the potential and the power. I’ve just got to show that. In the gym I’m holding my own wth Lee Selby, who is the next world champion, but it’s different on fight night."
Also on the Inner Core Promotions show, Churcher’s St Joes stablemate Justyn Hugh saw his opponent Steffan Hughes retire after three brutal rounds, fellow Newport fighter Craig Woodruff beat Liam Ellis 40-36 on points. Joe Jones quit on his stool after one round against Cardiff’s Lewis Patterson and Aberdare’s Lance Sheehan beat tough Lithuanian Simas Vlosinas 40-36.