Craig Woodruff completed the first part of what could be a career-defining year by claiming the vacant Celtic lightweight title with a landslide points defeat of Ronnie Clark in Cardiff.

The Newport fighter beat Scotsman Clark on the scorecards of all three ringside judges (98-92, 99-91, 100-91), setting him up for a tilt at the British crown later this year.

The 29-year-old will take on the winner of next month’s Lonsdale Belt showdown between fellow Welshman Gavin Gwynne and Liverpool’s Luke Willis.

Although nominated as the opponent for either Gwynne or Willis before Saturday night’s clash at the Vale Sports Arena, Woodruff knew he still had to get the job done against Dundee veteran Clark.

Clark, 37, arrived in South Wales having vowed to knockout the former Welsh champion and Celtic title challenger in his own backyard.

A former Scottish champion himself, Clark looked to get at Woodruff from the off, but the Welshman was having none of it.

He used his height and reach advantage to good effect, enjoying more success when keeping it long, with Clark looking to profit when going to work on the inside.

There was no let up in the chat between the two during the contest, while referee Ron Kearney had to get involved on several occasions as the fighters tried to assert their dominance.

By the closing rounds, Woodruff knew he had hit in the bag, while Clark tried desperately to find a stoppage before the final bell.

Woodruff, backed by the likes of trainers Luke Pearce and Johan Berenedjy and manager Richie Garner, took a unanimous decision, much to the delight of his family and friends in the arena.

Another great opportunity now awaits ‘Smiler’, as he looks to become the first British champion from Newport since David ‘Bomber’ Pearce in the early 1980s.