IBF world bantamweight champion Stuart Hall is writing an exclusive diary for The Northern Echo in the build up to the defence of his title against Martin Ward at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on Saturday, March 29

DRIVING over the Redheugh Bridge in Newcastle last night I had a little look over to my left to see the Metro Radio Arena … it’s hard to believe the big night’s less than three weeks away.

There was a giant billboard outside to advertise the event: Stuart Hall versus Martin Ward. It sent a little shiver down my spine, got me going. I really can’t wait to get in the ring with him.

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I’ve fought in front of big crowds before, around 4,500 were at Leeds in December to see me fight Vusi Malinga to win the title. But this is going to be different. It’s almost like a home fight because I’m front the North-East, where I am from. It’s going to be amazing.

It was my wife, Emma, who had seen the billboard the day before and she had told me to have a look as we drove up to Newcastle Civic Centre. I was invited to the Sport Newcastle 37th Annual Dinner.

These are the things I have been getting invited to as a world champion and I hope Martin Ward knows I’m not planning on giving my IBF bantamweight belt up any time soon.

BEFORE I drove up to Newcastle I was in Leeds stepping up my sparring. That’s what it’s all about at the minute.

It’s about getting ready, getting in to shape and I’m super fit. I felt great after the eight rounds I had yesterday with two different lads.

The first four rounds I was up against a really, sharp amateur and then the next four I was in with a lightweight, a bit stronger. The differences are perfect preparation for when I face Martin Ward.

Martin Ward might bring a bit of awkwardness with him as a southpaw but the sparring I have been doing has been perfect for me. I feel great, in prime condition and I just want the night to be here now. I can’t wait.

THE night is going to be special and all the signs are that the 5,000 allocation for tickets should be sold for March 29. It’ll be incredible and a great night of boxing for the region and for Darlington.

I remember going to the Metro Radio Arena to watch Joe Calzaghe and Amir Khan there, so to know I’m going to be there as the main fight is just brilliant.

Something else which is great for boxing is the Carl Froch and George Groves fight at Wembley. I can’t believe they sold 60,000 tickets inside an hour for that title fight on May 31.

It just shows you what a bit of controversy can bring. That fight has been talked about for ages, with all the controversy that the two of them have brought and people can’t wait to see it.

Neither can I and it just shows what a great fight that is for the boxing world. Nobody knows what is going to happen, but I still fancy Froch. You can never write Froch off. I know people are, but you can’t.

Before that it’s all about the Metro Radio Arena and me and Martin Ward.