DARLINGTON boxer Josh Babb has had his fair share of setbacks but persistence has paid off as he landed the biggest title of his career so far.

And after winning the GB Elite Three Nations crown in the Under-57kg weight class, the 23-year-old has plans to follow in the footsteps of his coach Argie Ward and turn pro.

Ward created history 16 years ago becoming the first professional Darlington boxer to win a major title when he was crowned Commonwealth Super-Bantamweight champion.

Those memories will be cherished forever by Ward but he says the joy of his best wins was matched by the delight of seeing Babb come out on top at the prestigious GB Elite Three Nations, held in Rotherham last month.

Babb beat Scotland's Saul Sztor by a 4-1 split decision to book his place in the final, where he edged out England's Edward Hardy by a 3-2 split decision.

"Josh has been with me since he was nine," said Ward, who is assisted by Andrew Fletcher in training Babb.

"We've been together since the start. He's been in national finals and been at the top all of his career but he's never had the luck or the big chances that he's deserved.

"In amateur boxing, England Boxing love tall, rangy boxers who don't get involved in a fight. Josh is the opposite to that, he's short and he boxes out of a crouch with a pro style. That has meant we've had some frustrating decisions over the years

"He's had setbacks but we've stuck at it, he's stuck by me, I've stuck by him. We've had a lot of heartache but he's never given up and the cream always rises."

Ward made the move into coaching at the end of his own boxing career and now runs Ward Degnans Boxing Club, in Darlington.

He said: "I get a hellish buzz off helping people, it's unbelievable. If I can help someone and give them a bit of confidence in life, I'm winning, I go to bed at night happy.

"I'll never give up or turn my back on anyone.

"Josh has been at a high level for a long time but there's been a lot of frustrating times where I've thought this poor kid isn't getting the nod or the luck he deserves.

"When he won that title, I can't explain that feeling. I was absolutely buzzing. We finally have the reward he deserves."

Babb and Ward are now considering their next step, but the trainer is pretty sure how the future looks for his fighter.

"England want him to box for GB and he has options there but I think we'll move over into the pro ranks," he said.

"I think it is the time and I think he's made his mind up."