THE agonising wait for the first Newport boxer to secure a Lonsdale Belt since David 'Bomber' Pearce landed the prize 39 years ago continues.

Craig Woodruff took on reigning British lightweight king Gavin Gwynne in an all-Welsh clash in Bolton in September, with the result ending in a majority draw in favour of the champion.

The result meant Trelewis' Gwynne, who is trained by Tony Borg at the St Joseph's gym in Newport, held onto his crown.

But it's not all doom and gloom for Woodruff, as his coach, and nephew of the late ‘Bomber’, Luke Pearce, has seen a huge improvement in the 30-year-old's boxing over the last five years.

He said: “It was a huge moment in sporting history for Newport. The last person to win the Lonsdale Belt was my uncle 39 years ago at heavyweight.

South Wales Argus: Luke PearceLuke Pearce (Image: Luke Pearce)

Craig 'Smiler' Woodruff (left) in action against Gavin Gwynne (right) for the British lightweight title. Picture: Wasserman Boxing

“It was a big achievement for myself to train somebody from Newport. When I took Craig on, he did have a losing record and was not expected to compete for titles."

In five years, Team SMoA, which also includes Pearce's fellow coach Johan Berendjy and manager Richie Garner, have taken Woodruff to the Celtic title and to fights for the Welsh and British titles, where he gained a draw and entered the world's top 50.

Pearce added: “It was fantastic to get that far and the team should be very proud of themselves. We also have huge respect for Gavin, and everyone at St Joseph's, it was a pleasure to share the ring with them.”

Since David ‘Bomber’ Pearce won his British title, two other boxers from Newport - Matthew Edmonds and Paul Samuels - made unsuccessful challenges for the Lonsdale Belt, but Woodruff has now earned the best result in 39 years.

The improvement in Woodruff in five years has been fantastic and gave him the opportunity to make history in the fight against Gwynne.

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CHAMPION: David 'Bomber' Pearce holds his title win up high at a Newport County match in 1983, and was the last Newport boxer to lift title. Picture: South Wales Argus archive 

The 30-year-old benefited from his coach's military training, which he faced in his career as a soldier and commisioned officer in the Armed Forces, which helped improve stamina.

He added: “There are physical military training tests which I have adapted for Craig that I went through as a soldier and was very fortunate to undertake during my time in the military.

“Craig has benefitted from not just boxing training, but physical and mental training that has helped us massively.

"This was evidenced on the night when he finished strongly over the 12-round distance.

"It was important to show how Craig could perform and stay the course, as Gavin is known for ending fights well and has a world-class engine.

“For Craig to push Gavin back and show he belongs at this level was something Team SMoA are very proud of."

South Wales Argus: Luke Pearce Luke Pearce (Image: Luke Pearce)

Co-coach Luke Pearce (L) with Craig 'Smiler' Woodruff (C) and coach Johan Berendjy (R). Picture: Luke Pearce

The fight attracted attention from boxing fans across the UK, with Gwynne asking Woodruff for a rematch before the draw was announced.

Woodruff added: “I felt as if I was victorious and won the fight by two rounds, interestingly Gavin asked me for a rematch before the official decision.

“I knew he had respect for me but most of all I was happy to prove doubters wrong about my ability and I owe that to the team.”

Team SMoA are now looking into a possible rematch against Gwynne for the title with the hope of it being in Wales, either at Rodney Parade or ICC Wales.

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Rodney Parade or the ICC Wales in Newport would be a dream venue for the rematch. Picture: Newsquest

Woodruff added: “If the rematch happened in Wales, I would love to fight in my hometown, at the ICC or Rodney Parade, that would be amazing.”