Durham's Ward claims Commonwealth crown at a canter

COUNTY Durham’s Martin Ward cantered to the Commonwealth bantamweight title on Saturday after securing a lop-sided points victory over Gabriel Odoi Laryea.

The pair squared up at Newcastle’s Centre for Sport for the vacant title and the wide scorecards of 119-109, 119-109 and 120-108 reflected Ward’s dominance over the 12 rounds.

Although Ghana’s Odoi Laryea had only lost two of 20 fights, and had 11 KOs on his ledger, this was his first trip outside his homeland and he looked lost at times in the ring.

The cagey opener set the scene for much of the contest. Odoi Laryea beckoned Ward in when the West Rainton man landed but Ward wasn’t fooled and stuck to his game plan of quick hands and feet to outsmart the African.

In the second the North-East man scored with well-timed counters as the visitor resorted to lunging in with shots. There seemed little urgency to Odoi Laryea’s work and in the following sessions it became clear he was having real difficulty in pinning Ward down to land anything clean.

In the fourth Ward trapped his man in a corner for a short spell, and in the fifth a quick right hand counter had spray flying off his opponent’s head. Odoi Laryea came out with more fire in his belly for the sixth but had no answer to Ward’s swift counter combinations.

Fleet of foot for the remainder, Ward just didn’t allow Odoi Laryea a foothold and in the final session he was still being made to miss while being picked off with two or three shots for his efforts.

Both men raised their hands at the end, but Ghanaian must have known he had been well beaten.

“I feel ecstatic,” said Ward afterwards with the Commonwealth strap draped over his shoulder. “Hopefully this will be the first of many. I started off with a fast jab and didn’t let him get into it.

"He was dangerous, not the best in the world, but he was heavy-handed. I’ll do whatever my manager Dave Garside wants me to do next, but I would love a rematch with Lee Haskins.”

Now with just two defeats in 20 fights, and with his new belt as currency, Ward may yet get his chance to revenge the stoppage defeat he suffered to British champ Haskins in April.

On the undercard, Hartlepool featherweight Peter Cope is now nine-unbeaten after stepping up against former British title challenger Sean Hughes to claim a 60-55 win. Copey boxed well behind the jab over six sessions, and his aggression had Hughes looking vulnerable at times.

Newcastle’s Andrew Buchanan is the new International Masters super-middleweight king after out boxing Surrey hard-man Gary Boulden over ten rounds.

The action was painful to watch at times as Buchanan landed solid right hands and uppercuts that busted up Boulden’s face and knocked his head back. Referee Andrew Wright scored 99-91.

The rest of the bouts on this first show by promoter Mark Clauzel were all four rounds affairs. Featherweight Tommy Ward, younger brother of headliner Martin, beat Sheffield’s Qasim Hussain 40-36.

South Shields super-flyweight Anthony ‘Babyface Nelson outscored former British title challenger Usman Ahmed 40-37.

Horden’s Anthony Hardy took a few shots before running out a 39-37 winner over Barnsley debutant Lee Gibbons.

Sunderland heavyweight Danny ‘Bad News’ Hughes outscored Croatia’s Jakov Gospic 40-36 and Newbiggin light-middleweight Lewis Scott made it three KOs from three fights after downing Latvia’s Zans Barsukovs with body shots at 2-39 of the first.

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