MARTIN Ward is ready to return to the boxing ring – and he’ll come back with a new challenge.
The West Rainton boxer has not fought since suffering the agony of a failed bid for the IBF world bantamweight title in March.
But Ward is in training at Neil Fannan’s Hartlepool gym in readiness for a bout in Gateshead on November 29.
The 26-year-old now plans to operate at super-bantamweight where he hopes “to get stuck in” to the top Brits like Kid Galahad and Gavin McDonnell.
“I can’t wait to get back in,” said Ward.
“I’m coming back with a clear head and a clean slate.
“It’s been a bit of frustrating year, but this is a new start at super-bantam.
“It was great to be Commonwealth champion and challenge for the world title.
“But those last four pounds I was getting off were taking a lot out of me.
“It is good to be moving up – I’ll be stronger and better at 8st 10lbs than at 8-6.
“I’m going to be fighting on November 29 and it would be great if an inter-continental title or something like that could be arranged.
“I don’t think coming back and doing a four-rounder is particularly going to suit me.
“I’ve been in training so I’m in decent nick – I sparred with our Tommy and Peter Cope to help them prepare for their fights at South Shields.”
The elder Ward began the year as Commonwealth champ, following his win over Gabriel Laryea last December.
He then challenged for Hall’s IBF crown, but a badly cut eye forced the bout to be halted after round one – the Darlington fighter retaining his belt via a technical draw.
Ward was lined up to defend his Commonwealth title in the autumn against Doncaster’s Jason Cunningham in his rival’s home town.
Illness interrupted his preparation so Ward stood aside and Cunningham fought and lost to Sheffield’s Ross Burkinshaw for the vacated title.
He could have had a crack at the winner but will instead plot a rote at super-bantam.
“I could do the 8-6 but it was hard,” he told the Echo. “It was frustrating to see the belt end up in someone else’s hands.
“At 8-6, it wasn’t an issue over strength or power, it was that my movement in the later rounds was not how I would have liked because I just did not have the energy.
“Movement is the key for me, get the shots off then move.
“Instead of just winning the rounds at bantam, now I can win them bigger and better.
“Super-bantam is the way forward for me and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the big names and seeing how I get on.”