Can Lewis Ritson get closer to world glory on Matchroom Boxing's final Sky Sports show?

This weekend is the end of an era for boxing as Matchroom and Sky Sports end their 25-year association in the sport.

The last card of their broadcasting deal will see popular Geordie Lewis Ritson return to the ring in an IBF final eliminator against Jeremias Ponce.

Ritson's homecoming will see 1,000 fans in attendance to witness the spectacle - the first time for a Matchroom Boxing UK event since Anthony Joshua's victory over Kubrat Pulev in December.

The victor will be in line to challenge newly-crowned undisputed junior welterweight world champion Josh Taylor. Whether it is a realistic possibility is another thing with Taylor eyeing a career-defining fight against Terence Crawford at welterweight.

Eddie Hearn - who will be promoting his fighters on DAZN UK for the next five years after this weekend - expects it to be a tough fight for the home fighter.

"This is a huge fight for Lewis Ritson. He is one fight away from a shot at the undisputed championship.

"We should be having the full 9,000 in Newcastle but right now 1,000 is going to feel like a full house and I can't wait to see the fans again in Newcastle - I expect this main event to be a war."

When and where is Lewis Ritson fighting?

The 140-pound slugger returns this Saturday (June 12). Ritson will take on the undefeated Jeremias Ponce at the Vertu Motors Arena, Newcastle.

What time will Lewis Ritson fight? The undercard begins at 7pm BST and consists of an undercard which includes the return of maverick Joe Laws, who faces Nestor Maradiaga, looking to bounce back from defeat to Rylan Charlton.

Heavyweight duo Solomon Dacres and Alen Babic are also in action. Dacres returns for the first time since winning on his debut last month while Babic aims to extend his unblemished record to 7-0.

The ring-walk time for Ritson is expected to be at 10pm but may be slightly later depending on the undercard results.

Where can I watch Ritson vs Ponce?

The duo will collide on Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland while DAZN hold the rights in the US and 200 territories and countries worldwide.

Can Ritson overcome an upset?

Ritson enters this weekend with a record of 21-1 and is unbeaten since tasting a sole defeat in 2018 to Francesco Patera. Of those 22 bouts, he has won inside the distance 12 times but just once in his last four fights since moving up to junior welterweight.

His most recent performance was a controversial split-decision victory over Miguel Vazquez. Hearn branded the scorecards as a 'disgrace' while Ritson's father, David, said they had the 'rub of the green' in October.

When it came to punch accuracy, Ritson was outlanded by the veteran in all departments - 80-75 jabs, 113-66 power, 193-141 overall. It is no secret that Ritson - similar to Josh Warrington - Ritson is a fighter who thrives in front of fans which may explain his lacklustre performance against Vazquez.

This weekend, Ritson will need to be at his best to overcome a stern operator in Argentina's Ponce, who has won all 27 of his professional fights with all but two taking place on home territory.

You would be a fool to rule out the South American given Matchroom's record of upset results since the global pandemic. Alexander Povetkin, David Avanesyan and Mauricio Lara are just a few names to have crashed the party against Dillian Whyte, Josh Kelly and Warrington, respectively.

If Ponce can somehow win, he will be within touching distance of following in the footsteps of all-time great and fellow native Nicolino Locche.

The Argentinian, who was inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame in 2003, is regarded as one of the greatest defensive fighters of all-time and held the junior welterweight world title from 1968 to 1972.

Is Ponce the second-coming of Locche? No. But Argentina has a big piece of history in this division and he is ranked inside the top five of the IBF rankings - one place above Ritson who is in sixth.

Betting odds

Ritson - who defeated Robbie Davis Jr. in an enthralling contest in 2019 - is the favourite according to SkyBet with odds of 4/11 compared to Ponce at 2/1 while a draw is 18/1.

The Englishman has a point to prove and if he starts aggressively, he can exploit the vulnerability of Ponce, who got knocked down in the third round of his previous fight against Jonathan "El Potro" Eniz.

If there was an extra 20 seconds left in that round then Eniz would be taking Ponce's place as Ritson's opponent.For Ritson to win, he will need to start aggressive and maintain his discipline in the process to earn victory.

While a knockout is achievable, another flat performance by Ritson will end any dreams of him fighting for world honours. But with fans returning, we expect Ritson to get back on track Saturday night.