HAVING made North-East sporting history when he became only the second boxer from the region to claim a world title at the end of December, Stuart Hall will defend his IBF World Bantamweight title when he faces Martin Ward at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on March 29.
In the next six weeks, the Darlington fighter will pen an exclusive weekly column for The Northern Echo outlining his preparations for the historic all-North-East contest
THEY say that defending the world title is harder than winning it in the first place, but let me make one promise from the very outset – I’m still going to have that belt at the end of March.
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I didn’t put everything I had into beating Vusi Malinga just to give away my world title at the first time of asking. Martin Ward can say what he likes in the build up to the fight – the bottom line is that he won’t be winning anything.
I’m going to be better than ever next month. Being world champion puts a real spring in your step and I’ve improved in every part of my training.
I was working with Johnny Harrison, my fitness coach, yesterday, and he’s amazed by the shape I’m in at this stage of the preparations.
He’s meticulous and he records all the data from my training sessions. He’s been comparing where I’m at now to where I was at the same stage before the Malinga fight, and he says the weights I’m lifting and work I’m doing is incredible.
I’ve never been very active as a boxer, and in the past, I’ve had eight or nine months off between fights and generally let myself go.
There’s been none of that this time. I’ve not been out and I’ve barely touched a drink. I’m bang in shape already, and I haven’t even started stepping things up yet. Once I start doing that, I’ll be at a level I’ve never been at before.
I’M heading down to Mick’s (Marsden) gym in Leeds today and will probably be down there again before the end of the week to start some light sparring.
I did a lot of work with Rendall Munroe ahead of the Malinga fight, but I don’t think we’ll be going down that route this time.
Rendall was perfect preparation for Malinga – he was big and powerful, and on me all the time. Martin Ward is totally different fighter, and I’ll be looking to do some sparring that reflects that.
I want someone who’s a little bit sharper, and maybe a bit more lively in terms of their movement. Ward’s probably a bit livelier than Malinga, although he’s not in the same class as an all-round fighter.
We’ll firm up the plans in the next couple of weeks, but we might look at a couple of different sparring partners and go four or five rounds with each of them.
PEOPLE keep asking whether my life has changed since I’ve become world champion, and I keep telling them that I’m still the same lad from Darlo that I’ve always been.
There have been a few things that have been different, like appearing on television a couple of times on Box Nation and maybe getting recognised a bit more, although that started to die down fairly quickly in the days and weeks after the Malinga win.
I’m working with my promoters and management team a bit more, and they’ve arranged for me to go to see a bloke later this week to get some tailor-made suits.
I hate the idea of getting something for nothing, but it’s something they’ve set up for me so it’ll be nice to get a bit of new clobber.
To be honest, I need it. I’ve only really got one suit and all of my mates keep ribbing me because whenever I’m at an event, I’m in the same gear.
I tell them it’s because I like the suit, but really it’s because it’s the only one I own. At least that’ll change soon and I’ll have a couple of different things to choose from!
- Tickets for Stuart Hall's IBF World Bantamweight title fight against Martin Ward are priced at £35, £55, £75 and £150 and are available from the Metro Radio Arena box office on 0844 493 6666.