MORGANTOWN - Hard work usually pays off and that turned out to be true late Saturday night for Dustin Echard.
The Parkersburg South graduate and industrial engineer for CONSOL Energy was crowned the West Virginia light heavyweight boxing champion after stopping hometown favorite Eric Watkins via TKO in the third round of Cage Power 9 inside the Morgantown Event Center.
Although scheduled for 10 rounds, the former Fairmont State baseball player didn't need nearly that long to win his first professional title.
"Tremendous," Echard said via phone not long after he improved his record to 9-0 with six wins coming via knockout. "It was just an exclamation point on the people who helped me and the time I put into it. There was so much driving to Pittsburgh and Glouster (Ohio) and all the people who put in their time with me.
"It's just a testament of hard work and you hear it all the time. If you put in your time and keep believing good things will happen and that's the honest to God's truth. It's all about having confidence and faith. You put in the hard work and the results will come."
Manager Mike Sheppard, who made numerous trips with Echard to work with Sam Jones in Ohio, wasn't surprised the way things turned out for the vacant title.
"Watkins came out like a house on fire. He was all over Dustin," said Sheppard, who noted Echard used solid defensive skills to fend off the barrage. "Watkins probably did win the first round, but it's a 10-round fight.
"You can't fight like it's a four-rounder. Dustin started catching him with some uppercuts. Watkins took some right hands. Man, he's a tough guy."
Sheppard said the fight was 90 percent soldout prior to Saturday, but he and Echard both agreed Mother Nature kept some fight fans away.
"It just feels amazing," Echard added of his victory, which was the sixth time he's fought in basically a year. "From watching him on tape he was a pressure fighter. He likes to come out and be the aggressor. I kind of expected that (Watkins' early flurry). I think he wanted to come out and feel me out to see what I was all about.
"He came out real strong and jabbed real strong to the body and the head. I just stayed strong and tried to counter him some and started catching him and started to see some openings. About the third round I caught him with a couple punches and he felt them."
Echard said the second time he knocked Watkins down in the third round it was all over.
"I was in the zone," he said.
Despite admitting Watkins likely took the first round against him, it wasn't something that worried the ex-Patriot, who played on the 2003 Class AAA state championship football team.
"He came out hard and kept a little busier in that first around and I kept my composure," Echard stated. "I kept my composure and I saw the openings and the confidence started growing.
"I just kept my defense going and I knew that eventually one of those punches was going to hurt him and that's exactly what happened."
Even though he doesn't have any immediate plans for his boxing future, Echard was just glad to get the win and come out of the fight healthy.
"I really don't have a mark on my face and my hands are swollen right now," Echard said with a chuckle. "I'm definitely going skiing in a couple weeks."