Shabaz Masoud and Jose Sanmartin headlined tonight’s next NextGen card in Newcastle, finally meeting in a ten round super bantamweight fight.

The pair were due to fight three weeks ago but Masoud was withdrawn during fight week after falling ill.

Masoud has been talked up as a future world champion, but this was a step up in quality for the man from Stoke. Masoud’s best victory - a twelfth round stoppage of Jack Bateson - came exactly a year ago. Colombia’s Sanmartin has mixed in good company, losing to the likes of Mauricio Lara and Emmanuel Navarette. 

Sanmartin swarmed forward in his usual aggressive way and proving to be a rough, physical force inside. Masoud wasn’t making him pay much of a price for getting into range. After two rounds, Sanmartin had succeeding in making it the type of fight he wanted. 

Masoud constantly back-pedaled to his left, looking to walk Sanmartin onto his southpaw left hand but moving backwards invited Sanmartin to rumble forward and build momentum and he wasn’t holding his feet long enough to put any weight on the shot.

Masoud began to punch more in the fourth which helped him keep Sanmartin at bay - one left uppercut catching the eye - but the Colombian got closer again in the fifth, easily slipping past Masoud’s pawing jab and working away inside. Sanmartin was punching holes in Masoud, but he was applying constant pressure and seemed to be winning rounds though sheer activity.

Masoud held his ground a little more in the sixth and scored with some nice short punches but began to pick up warnings for pushing Sanmartin off with his forearm. Finally, he was making Sanmartin walk through punches before unloading his own. Masoud still gave up ground voluntarily too often, but Sanmartin’s output was beginning to drop.

Sanmartin seemed to have had the riot act read to him after the seventh. He came out with added aggression and pushed Masoud around the ring for the majority of the round. Masoud seemed to have it in him to keep the fight at his preferred range, but the jab was virtually nonexistent and the uppercut which could have been used to make Sanmartin think twice about getting inside was used all too rarely.

Sanmartin wasn’t particularly fast or inventive but was relentless. Masoud survived another warning for use of the elbow in the ninth without losing a point and Sanmartin finished the round strongly.

Masoud needed a strong tenth round but back-pedaled while Sanmartin bounced forward, full of enthusiasm. Sanmartin was throwing the same short hooks he was throwing in round one, but Masoud still hadn’t figured out a solution. Masoud planted his feet in the final minute and refused to be pushed back but although he picked a couple of nice counters, he was just too inactive.

The fight went to the scorecards and Masoud was awarded a controversial split decision. Jesus Morata Garcia scored the fight 96-94 for Sanmartin but was overruled by two cards in Masoud’s favor, Luigi Boscarelli handed in a disgraceful card of 98-92 and Michael Alexander had it 96-94. 

Masoud, now 12-0 with 4 knockouts picked up a WBA Intercontinental belt and Sanmartin can feel extremely hard done by, especially by that 98-92 scorecard.