HAVING shared some of the same experiences as world champion Stuart Hall, Martin Ward is confident of claiming the IBF World Bantamweight title when the two North-East fighters share the same ring at the end of next month.
Ward will attempt to add to the world title to the Commonwealth crown he claimed in December when he takes on Hall at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on March 29.
The West Rainton fighter will start as the underdog as he tackles a 12-round contest for only the second time in his career, but some of the form lines from his previous fights suggest he should not be underestimated.
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Having turned professional almost a year after Hall, Ward has taken on five of the same fighters as the Darlington-based champion with almost identical results.
The pair have both lost to Lee Haskins – Hall on points, Ward to a fifth-round stoppage – and recorded victories over Adrian Fuzesy, Dai Davies, Ian Napa and Anthony Hanna.
Hall’s last two victories over Vusi Malinga and Sergio Perales have taken him to a level above anything Ward has achieved, but next month’s challenger does not regard himself as the junior partner in the pair’s relationship.
“We’ve sort of followed each other along,” said Ward, who is hoping to become the first member of the travelling community to claim a world title. “Stuey got there first because he turned pro before I did. But I followed him and I’ve been knocking on the door ever since.
“We thought we were going to fight for the British (title) at one stage, but it didn’t happen. But if you look at our records, we’ve boxed five of the same opponents and we’re pretty closely matched.
“He lost to Haskins, I lost to Haskins. I beat (Jason) Booth, he lost to Jamie McDonnell. He boxed Napa, and he was getting beaten until Napa retired. I schooled Ian Napa.”
Ward is a former product of Birtley ABC, the club that also helped nurture Jon-Lewis Dickinson, who will attempt to win a Lonsdale Belt outright when he defends his British Cruiserweight title against Neil Dawson on the undercard of next month’s ‘Clash of the Clans’ bill.
The pair are close friends, and last shared a bill together when Dickinson beat David Dolan to claim the Northern Area Cruiserweight title at the Stadium of Light in 2011 while Ward was seeing off Napa in a one-sided contest.
Next month’s double-header represents the biggest night of both boxers’ careers, and they will be cheering each other on from ringside.
“I’ve known Jon-Lewis since I was 14 years old at Birtley,” said Ward. “We’ve won amateur and professional titles together.
“He had his best win against Dave Dolan, and I beat Ian Napa on the same card. So to be sharing a bill with Jon-Lewis again gives me a bit of confidence because we seem to do well when we box together.”
Dickinson will be in the ring first next month, and Ward admits he will have an added motivation if his former club-mate does the business against Rotherham-based Dawson.
“When he beat Dolan, who was my gym mate at the time, I thought, ‘I’ll have to beat Napa now’,” he said. “So if he does a number on Dawson, I’ll have to do a number on Stuey as well.”