Thomas Essomba has a fascinating back-story. He absconded from London’s 2012 Olympic village after captaining his nation, washing up in the north east of England without a penny to his name.
Three years later the runaway from Cameroon - a Commonwealth country - is respected and accepted in his new protective environment of Sunderland.
On Saturday he found himself competing for a Commonwealth flyweight title a little unsure whether he was representing his home nation which he still loves or the one he wants to repay for offering him refuge.
At the Magna Centre, we found out he had a boxing quality as compelling as his background. Up against a technically superior boxer in Sheffield’s Waleed Din he stopped the local favourite after 11 gruelling rounds. Becoming a champion now escalates his chance of a secure future after three years uncertainty,
Din, 22, a former ABA champion was overpowered as Essomba did what he had to do to win. Sometimes the Olympian skirted with the laws of the sport - Din hit the canvas six or seven times after being dragged and pushed around. But his gum-shield was also a regular visitor to the canvas as Essombo took the fight to him. Din took an eight count in the fourth round but tried to recover and return fire but could not match the African’s strength.
Promoter Dennis Hobson was loud in his criticism as Din was continually bundled over - but after eight rounds his opposite number Phil Jeffries motioned to him with his fingers that he thought Essombo was five rounds up. Hobson appeared to say “two” back!
Two knockdowns in the 11th prompted Din’s trainer Keith Palmer to throw in the towel.
Manor Park’s Liam Cameron, who has been counselled by a sports psychologist, bristled with confidence against toned rival George Beroshvili, the Georgian who had been in with Martin Murray. Picking him off with a strong jab, he then varied a number of other shots including a wicked upper-cut. Body shots told in the fourth round, the visitor went to ground and the ref stepped in. Other Sheffield highlights of the Magna event included a brave win for debutant Kevin Skill and a second round demolition job by Muheeb Fazeldin - who almost stole the show with his pre-Christmas Santa style boxing shorts. Well-schooled Ingle man Kyle Yousaf saw off Gary Reeve in two rounds.
But Ramzy Nassa drew with an Estonian, Sergey Tasimov, old enough to be his dad.