Organisers of a knockout night of boxing in the North East have pledged to further boost the local economy by bringing more big time bouts to the region.

Matchroom Boxing, the world’s leading boxing promoter, chose Newcastle’s Vertu Motors Arena to host hometown favourite Lewis Ritson’s world title eliminator.

And although the Geordie favourite went down fighting earlier this month, a memorable night was a significant victory for post-lockdown sport.

Vertu Motors Arena staff and volunteers ensured a capacity COVID-secure event was a soaraway success.

And Matchroom Boxing said: “After six long months without live crowds we were delighted to welcome back 1,000 fans for Lewis Ritson’s fight against Jeremias Ponce at the excellent Vertu Motors Arena in Newcastle.

1,000 boxing fans became the first spectators back through the arena’s doors in over a year. (Photos: Matchroom Boxing)

“Despite the result not going our way, the 1,000 fans inside the arena helped create a special atmosphere live on Sky Sports in the UK and on DAZN in the US and more than 200 countries and territories.

“All of the staff at the Vertu Motors Arena went above and beyond to help us run a smooth and successful event.

“The facilities on offer were excellent and we look forward to returning in the future.”

Ritson’s bout — and a packed undercard — followed hot on the heels of the Vertu Motors Arena hosting the opening stages of British basketball’s May Madness tournament last month.

The May Madness British Basketball Play-Offs court at the Vertu Motors Arena (Photo: Mansoor Ahmed)

Sixteen teams played inside the state-of-the-art venue across four days with strict COVID-19 protocols in place.

And British Basketball League (BBL) bosses praised the versatility and efficiency of a venue that safely accommodated hundreds of players, coaching staff and officials.

One of the North East’s leading venues continues to double up as a vaccination centre during the week.

And Sam Blake, CEO at the Eagles Community Foundation, owners of the Vertu Motors Arena, said: “Working closely with the Matchroom Boxing and Sky Sports teams, our venue took on an amazing transformation.

The Vertu Motors Arena transformed for Matchroom Boxing live on Sky Sports (Photo: Matchroom Boxing)

“In 24 hours it went from vaccination centre to boxing arena in time for our biggest live TV event yet.

“Having fans back in the house was absolutely brilliant after more than a year without them and we can’t wait to welcome even bigger crowds when Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed.

“We’re delighted to have hosted our first event with Matchroom and can’t wait for the next one!”

The Vertu Motors Arena, on Scotswood Road, is easily accessible from the A1 and boasts a variety of indoor spaces capable of hosting sports, entertainment and corporate events.

Ample on-site parking is available and the venue is just a 10-minute walk from Newcastle Central Station and the city centre.

More eye-catching events are planned for later this summer as Sam and her team seek to establish the Vertu Motors Arena as the go-to Tyneside base for the UK’s leading promoters.

And community groups are flooding back to the venue following months on the sidelines as a result of the global pandemic.

Sam added: “We have such a diverse calendar of business, community and sporting events coming up over the summer

“We’re even hosting our first wedding receptions since the first lockdown put all of them on pause.

“The venue is constantly proving its flexibility as our team adapts the arena and our many hospitality and meeting rooms for so many different uses. Every day I love seeing what we’ve done and who we’ll be welcoming.

“I’m excited for what the future holds for the Vertu Motors Arena. We’re eager to host more big spectator events like Matchroom Boxing and have the new seasons for both our Newcastle Eagles men’s and women’s top-flight basketball teams on the horizon.

“As a charity it’s especially important to us that the Eagles Community Foundation can also welcome young people and our local community back through the doors.

“The growth we have seen across our outreach programmes in recent months shows us that we’re already driving ahead with the bounce-back.”

For more information on hosting your event at the Vertu Motors Arena email [email protected] or call 0191 245 3880.