British lightweight Lewis Ritson fell to a shock defeat in his home city as Francesco Patera won the vacant European title by split decision.
In front of a raucous crowd at Newcastle’s Metro Arena, Ritson, 25, was expected to see off his more experienced Belgian challenger.
But he was given an education in European-level boxing, with Patera relentless in the latter rounds.
“It wasn’t the performance I wanted,” Ritson told Sky Sports.
All three judges scored the fight 116-112, with one having Ritson as the winner and two siding with Patera.
“The better man won,” said Ritson. “After the first four rounds I was heading back to the corner almost laughing. I maybe got too complacent.”
The British champion started the stronger in front of a supportive home crowd, which included former Newcastle and England footballer Alan Shearer.
Ritson drew blood from Patera in the second round as the Belgian – who has never been stopped – struggled to match his opponent’s power.
But Ritson found it tough to recover from a flurry of body shots around the midway point of the fight, a huge shift in body language evident as Patera started to take control.
Defeat was the first of Ritson’s career after 17 successive victories.
“I got caught with a body shot in the fifth and I couldn’t recover. I’m gutted,” he said.
“I got hurt and then I couldn’t get it back.”
From factory floor to European stage
Ritson was about to take a job in a factory following the birth of his daughter but was offered the chance to fight for the British title just a year ago, one he took by stopping Robbie Barrett in a win which changed his life.
Four stoppage wins have since catapulted him into the conversation as one of British boxing’s hottest properties and led to a genuine hope he could one day be the man to bring a first boxing world title to Newcastle.
He was a heavy odds-on favourite for Saturday’s fight, but Patera, 25, said he always had faith in his ability.
“I knew I could do it. I trained my heart out,” said the Belgian, who first won the European title in 2016.
“One year ago I saw Ritson fight and I knew I could beat him.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn said: “Patera just did enough, I thought he boxed brilliantly well. Lewis showed heart to stay in there.
“He is very young and he’ll come again. Boxing is all about learning.
“Patera boxed the perfect fight. Lewis maybe looked a bit tired and drained.”
Buatsi shines on undercard
Elsewhere on the card, Olympic bronze medallist Joshua Buatsi continued his eye-catching professional career with a first-round stoppage of the seasoned Tony Averlant.
A succession of body shots dropped Averlant twice in the opening three minutes, and a left hook to the body also earned British heavyweight Dave Allen a first-round win over Samir Nebo.
And in a bloody battle with Glenn Foot that went the distance, Robbie Davies Jr was crowned British super-lightweight champion by unanimous decision, also taking Foot’s Commonwealth title.