STUART Hall lit the touch paper of the World Championship derby by labelling Martin Ward as no more than a dancer.
The Darlington fighter, who won the IBF bantamweight title from Vusi Malinga at the age of 33 last December, stopped short of calling his West Rainton challenger soft.
But that was clearly the tone of Hall, who said he was “embarrassed” when he watched a DVD of Ward’s fifth-round stoppage defeat at the hands of Lee Haskins for the vacant British title.
“Martin will think he’s at Strictly Coming Dancing,” taunted the champion ahead of Saturday’s battle at the Metro Radio Arena. “He’ll want to come and dance around the fringes. He won’t want to fight.
“Me? I’m just going to get into him.
“Martin might be awkward for a bit, but then he’ll be dragged somewhere he’s never been before.
“When I won the world title, I went to places in that Malinga fight I never knew and came through it. I’m going to be taking Martin into proper deep water.
“He’ll need to have incredible inner strength. Will he be able to handle it?”
From the very start of the build-up, this 12-round derby showdown had a fighter v boxer look to it.
Hall is happy to play the role of the rugged warrior – he had to fight the last quarter of his win over the South African at Leeds with one eye closed.
And he pointed to the Haskins v Ward result as proof that his challenger lacks the steel. Hall says he has not studied any other recordings of his challenger.
“I’ve not watched a lot,” he said. “I watched the Lee Haskins fight and I was a bit embarrassed to be honest. Every time Lee hit him, it buzzed him.”
Hall is not even concerned about Ward’s southpaw style, and the former British and Commonwealth champion is confident after rising to “world class” at a time when many a boxer would be moving into the autumn of his career.
“I’ve fought loads of southpaws, including two of the top five in the world,” said Hall, who turned 34 last month. “I’ve proved to any doubters out there that I am world class.
“I’m definitely up there at that level.
“But I won’t be complacent, I won’t under-estimate Martin, I want to keep my belt.”