Boxing: Lincoln's Ryan Clark determined not to let Concepcion defeat stop him
A devastated, but equally defiant Ryan Clark has refused to let the flame die out on his fighting dream.
The big-hitting Lincoln super-middleweight may have failed in his bid to be crowned Midlands Area champion, but he has come too far to simply throw in the towel at the tender age of 23.
Ultimately the vastly experienced and undoubtedly talented Martin Concepcion was too street-wise, too cute and simply too good.
The 31-year-old became the first professional boxer to win an area crown at three different weight categories and has previously competed for Commonwealth, British and English honours.
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In hindsight it was always going to be a tall order for Clark – even in front of a passionate and sold-out crowd at North Kesteven Leisure Centre.
But Clark, who was looking to complete a remarkable turnaround in his career with a fourth win on the bounce, is still young. And yet he has more fight experience than many seasoned world champions.
The charismatic International Masters champion believes he still has a lot to offer the sport.
"This is an important stage of my career now," he said. "I have a big decision to make in what path I want to take in boxing.
"I am only 23 and I can punch hard so why should I give up now?
"A couple of years ago I had hardly anyone follow me and now I am selling out a sports centre in my hometown. I haven't done too bad and that's because I never gave up on my dream.
"I could be standing here now saying I am the Midlands Area champion but it wasn't to be.
"I am so gutted."
Clark will now take a holiday abroad before making a decision on his next move.
He will have time to reflect on arguably the most captivating tussle of his career.
Buoyed by the home fans and with adrenaline racing through his veins, Clark connected with two sweet overhand rights in the opening round. That was as good as it got for the Lincoln man.
Brimming with confidence after recent knockout victories against Jamie Boness and Jonjo Finnegan, Clark proceeded with wild and swinging lunges.
Concepcion weathered the early storm and began going quietly about his business.
The Leicester-based fighter moved through the gears to devastating effect in the second and floored Clark with a brutal combination.
As the rounds flew by, it became clear Clark had only a puncher's chance. Concepcion was in a different league as time after time he peppered the home fighter with accurate and short left, right combinations.
Clark was dropped heavily again in the fourth with many at ringside calling for the referee to put an end to the contest.
To his credit, Clark continued to surge forward and briefly threatened with his notorious big right hand.
But frustration took a grip of Clark's display and he was deducted a point in the fifth for biting his opponent on the shoulder.
Every time Clark missed with a haymaker, the busy Concepcion jumped in to land telling counter punches.
And it was one of the most sweetly timed counter punches a boxing fan is ever likely to see that brought the curtain down on Clark's fairytale in the seventh round. Clark's face was left horribly exposed after another inaccurate missile and Concepcion duly flattened his opponent with a perfect right hand.
Clark can hold his head high – far better boxers, but less durable fighters than Clark would have been stopped several rounds earlier.
"I want to apologise to all my fans and Lincoln," added Clark. "I trained so hard and really thought I could win this. They were excellent in making it a big night for boxing in Lincoln.
"But Concepcion has been in there with the very best fighters and he was class.
"I have big respect for him after that. Nobody stops me like that and he managed it.
"I hurt him a few times and he knows it but he caught me with a huge shot at the end. That's boxing."