Lewis Ritson set for another make or break fight, this time against veteran Zlaticanin
It’s familiar territory for Lewis Ritson on Friday night, not just in terms of where he’s fighting but what the stakes are.
His bout with veteran Dejan Zlaticanin is not the first contest he’s been in that’s been dubbed make or break but the popular Newcastle man isn’t fazed by the pressure.
“It always seems to be the case,” admitted the 22-2 super lightweight, who is in action back at the Newcastle Arena. “I’ve had a couple of setbacks in my time and it’s going to be a tough night on Friday night, he’s an ex world champion, he can punch a bit, so it seems I’m getting hard fights all the time, but that’s the way our camp is so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Zlaticanin is 37 and has lost three of his last five, including a dramatic knockout defeat to Mikey Garcia in Las Vegas back in 2017. Ritson is a father of two and is one of too few fighters who put real life ahead of boxing. His family comes first, but he’s also motivated by them to provide his young daughters (aged four and six months) with a better life.
“With a make or break fight you might think about it a little bit differently [that boxing is most important] but I’ve got two little daughters outside of boxing, so there is more to it, but people saying it’s a make or break fight you take it a bit more seriously about the boxing game and you’ve got to make sure you win any way you can,” said Ritson, who retains plenty of ambition.
“I want the biggest and best fights out there. It looks like [Josh] Taylor is going to be moving up so there are going to be four belts there that are vacant and with a good couple of wins you could be boxing for a world title. Good couple of wins and good performances and you could be right up there.”
Taylor held on to his belts with that hotly-disputed win over Jack Caterall a few weeks ago, and Ritson certainly was among those who believed that Chorley’s Catterall had done enough.
“I thought Jack had won,” Ritson went on. “I thought Jack could have sat on his stool for the last four rounds and he’d still have won it and took the fight… but boxing… it’s a hard game, isn’t it? And it’s no fault of Josh’s, it’s the judges at ringside and we’ve been on one of them before, we were very lucky with [Miguel] Vazquez so sometimes you’ve got to take them and sometimes they don’t go your way.”
Ritson has won five of his last six, including the contentious points win over Vazquez he refers to, with defeat to Jeremias Ponce in early 2021 in his rearview mirror. He rebounded with victory over Christian Uruzquieta in December and he remains a significant attraction in his hometown.
“I have the same momentum,” Ritson added, talking about his fanbase. “They’re loyal supporters from Newcastle and I think it’s going to be another loud, mad night and that will benefit me. I’m just focused on the job at hand but it’s a great show for the North East, you’ve got Pat McCormack, Mark Dickinson, Troy Williams and Tommy [Patrick Ward] and the North East is in a very strong position and I’m at the forefront of that but I need to keep winning and hopefully I can keep bringing the shows, especially for the talent they keep showing.”
Southpaw Zlaticanin has had success in the UK before. He defeated Ricky Burns in Scotland all the way back in 2014 and this could be his last roll of the dice.
“I’m expecting a very tough fight,” conceded Ritson. “He comes to win, he’s got a good knockout ratio, that’s his plan, he comes to knock you out, he’s going to come at you. The crowd’s not going to faze him and he’s going to try and do a job on us and we’re going to make sure we don’t play to the crowd, don’t box to his strengths and try and box him a little bit and keep him on the end of the jab.”
Is it easier said than done, not listening to a crowd that’s as passionate for a fighter as Ritson’s is for him?
“It’s very hard to be fair,” he admitted. “But when it comes to this level and these sort of fights, you need to stick to the plan or it will all end wrong, that’s happened to us before, we don’t want it to happen again, so stick to the plan this time, behind the jab and hopefully keep him on the end of the jab.”
Everyone in the Ritson camp has played their part. He’s back training with his father and said that he’s been reaping the rewards of a stellar camp, even though he’s stayed at home. There, even his young girls have helped out.
“Mine have slept all the way through every night,” Ritson smiled. “Last night I got up for the gym and they were still in bed, so it’s happy days.”
Lewis Ritson faces Dejan Zlaticanin in Newcastle on Friday, March 25 live on Eurosport TV, Eurosport App and discovery+