Tommy Ward (left)

The regions boxing has hit the headlines in 2017 – with some fighters in line to compete for world honours in the new year.

Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn are promising to bring more shows to the region.

Frank Warren will also be looking to extend a run of successful events in Newcastle after penning a partnership deal with BT Sport and BoxNation.

We look at the emerging talents who could cement the return of North-East boxing back in the big-time.

So who makes the North East’s magnificent seven top prospects?

7 – Jeff Saunders

The 26-year-old was a late bloomer in the professional game, having his first bout back in 2015.

But with extensive amateur pedigree, Saunders could go far.

The County Durham man has fought three times in the last year and will hope to continue his good form at the start of 2018.

His most recent win came against Steven Lewis on Boxnation’s ‘No Ifs – No Buts’ card in Newcastle, where he stormed his way to a unanimous decision.

The ex-paratrooper now has a record of 12 wins, with six knockouts and will no doubt have his sights set on a super lightweight title clash.

6 – Jay Hughes

The man known as ‘Jay Boy’ has only fought five times on the professional scene, but is another fighter with a respected amateur background.

The lightweight prospect from County Durham recently split from his trainer David Binns – and will now be training out of the Golden stable gym in Leeds.

Hughes will be looking to push on with his career in 2018 with new coach Paidrac Mcdonagh.

“I’d like to win an area title before the end of next year, but if Paidrac decides I’m ready for bigger titles then I’m good to go,” the 20-year-old said.

Hughes said he will be looking to fight again in the early part of 2018 – and hopes all of his loyal fans will support him in his new venture.

5 – Darren Richardson

The Northern area champion is another hot prospect in the super lightweight division.

His recent fight saw him take on Ross Jameson in a Tees-Wear showdown, where he stopped his man with a signature left hook in the sixth round.

A rumoured clash between Richardson and Conor Benn, son of Nigel, seems to be on the horizon.

The pair seem to have been on a parallel track to fighting one another since their debut and have even fought identical opponents.

The fight would likely take place on a Sky Sports show, where Benn fights regularly – and would be excellent exposure for the Thornley man.

4 – Isaac Macleod

The Sunderland man they call ‘Can bang’ is one of the more highly rated fighters in the North-East and poses an unblemished record of 12 wins.

Despite not having many professional fights, Macleod had previously won titles as an amateur and is already being spoke about on the boxing circuit.

His most recent win came on the ‘World boxing super series’ card in Liverpool, where he beat unbeaten Danny Craven in an all-out war over 12 rounds.

Macleod also spoke about his desire to win titles prior to his win over Daniel Bazo – “I’m not looking past any opponent but I’d love to fight for a world title at the Stadium of Light one day,” he said.

The 22-year-old is another fighter from the area who will be keen to push on in the new year.

3 –Thomas Patrick Ward

After turning professional at such a young age, West Rainton born Thomas Ward has turned from a boy to a man in his past two fights.

The 22-year-old beat James Dickens for the British title earlier this year – and more recently defended it in excellent fashion against Sean Davis.

The super bantamweight has been commended for his silky skills and fan friendly style – which has seen him feature on big shows in his past two fights.

Ward is now promoted by Warren – with an excellent platform to display his skills in BT sport and Boxnation.

Not only is he tipped for stardom in 2018, Ward believes he can go all the way and compete against the best for world honours.

“I really believe I can be world champion and I won’t stop until I get there,” Ward said in an interview after winning the British title.

2 – Lewis Ritson

Ritson previously signed with Hearn’s promotional stable after his British title win against Robbie Barrett.

The win came on the big Anthony Crolla vs Ricky Burns show in Manchester, where the 24-year-old announced his name on the big stage.

Prior to signing with his new promoter, the Newcastle man had fought 13 times and boasts an unbeaten record which includes seven wins inside the distance.

The lightweight prospect has a come forward style and forces his opponents to fight on the back foot.

The linkup between Ritson and Matchroom could be good for North East fight fans, with more events likely to be brought to the area.

And which fighter gets our vote as the region’s No 1 contender for world ring domination?

Sunderland boxer Josh Kelly, in red, reached the last 16 in Rio. Aziz Karimov / Demotix / Demotix/Press Association Images.

1 – Josh Kelly

‘Pretty boy Kelly’ is the fighter with the most potential and arguably the best to watch stylistically.

He also fights within the Matchroom stable, alongside fellow northerner Ritson.

The unbeaten Welterweight has a record of four wins, with three stoppages – and fights under the watchful eye of Adam Booth.

The 23-year-old from Sunderland has impressive amateur pedigree, which has stood him in good stead in the professional game.

Despite only having four fights, Kelly is already being rumoured to fight names such as Ashley Theophane, who is a 49-fight-veteran – and also a world title contender.

Kelly headlined one of the Matchroom ‘NXTGen’ shows in Newcastle, where he dismantled Newcastle’s Tom Whitfield in good fashion.