Stuart Hall won the IBF bantamweight title in bruising style with a unanimous decision to beat Vusi Malinga at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
The 33-year-old impressed in the early rounds with style, then showed depths of resilience and heart late on to withstand the South African's onslaught in the final stages.
Hall, coming into the fight with a 15-2 win/loss record, was the busier of the two fighters in the first round.
In the second, he was more expansive, settling into the contest much the better.
At the start of the third he looked to have struck the decisive blow, putting Malinga on the canvas early with a thumping right hand to the jaw.
The South African was in survival mode, his supporters in Leeds silenced—but he showed his experience to negotiate his way through the round.
It was crucial because as the fight moved into the middle rounds, Malinga finally got on terms and started to win rounds.
Tellingly, his work on the face closed Hall's left eye. It made him vulnerable to right-handed punches, and turned the contest into a battle for survival.
Hall was still prepared to come forward and attack, but his eye left him exposed. With Malinga on the charge, the fight looked like it could have ended by knockout just as easily as going to the judges' cards.
But in the end the advantage he had built early got him over the line, and gave the city of Darlington their first world champion.