Dwight Ritchie might have left Wednesday night’s fight against Tim Tszyu without his title belts, but he picked up a stack of fans.
The Shepparton concreter was overpowered in a unanimous decision loss, but showed heart the size of a lion’s in making the fight go the distance, despite taking a stack of damage throughout the bout.
The three judges scored the WBO Global, IBF Australian and WBA Oceania super welterweight title bout 98-93, 98-92 and 97-93, meaning Ritchie won two or three rounds of the 10-round fight.
‘Cowboy’ was caught in the third round by a huge Tszyu right hand which busted his face open near his eye, a cut so deep it caught the attention of the referee, who had the ringside doctor check the cut before allowing the contest to continue.
While the cut affected Ritchie, he stayed tough despite Tszyu prowling in search of a finish, eating a string of punches while firing back some of his own offence.
The fighting pride of Shepparton landed more as the fight went on and had nothing to lose late, but lacked the power to knock the talented Tszyu out and eventually fell to the points loss.
Post-fight, Ritchie drew a great deal of praise from his opponent.
‘‘I think it was a great experience,’’ Tszyu said.
‘‘Dwight is one hell of an opponent and kept me on my toes. He let me go somewhere that I haven’t been — something I can learn from and can even get better.
‘‘Maybe in the future we can fight for a world title in Australia one day.
‘‘He was No. 1 in Australia for a reason. All my respect to Dwight, he’s one hell of a competitor. I think his journey isn’t finished — it’s only just beginning.
‘‘Same as mine. We’re both young, we’ve got a big future ahead. Maybe, you know what, in the future, we can fight for a world title in Australia one day.’’