MARTIN Ward loves boxing. Hates sparring.
But the world title challenger is “happy” to go through round after round after round in his coach Neil Fannan’s gym.
The West Rainton bantamweight is just 11 days away from the biggest night of his life.
Ward is the maiden defence for IBF champion Darlington’s Stuart Hall at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle a week on Saturday.
The recently-turned 26-year-old has been sparring against world-rated Tshifhiwa Munyai and another South African, Michael Ramabeletsa, at Fannan’s gym in Hartlepool.
“I know all trainers say this, but Martin is super, super fit,” Fannan said.
“He did 12 rounds with both Mr T and Michael, someone he fought earlier in his career.
“Martin did two rounds with Tshi and then two with Michael and so on.
“Mr T, as I call him, is a world-rated fighter and, in my opnion, better than Stuey Hall.
“He’s a dangerous, clever boxer, but Martin has done very well against him. Sparring has been very good.
“Martin doesn’t like sparring, but he’s put the rounds in because he knows how important it is.”
Despite Ward’s reluctance to pull on a headguard and go sparring, he follows Fannan’s doctrine to the letter, not that you’d tell sometimes by the banter between the pair in the gym.
But Fannan said: “We have a good relationship, he listens to what I say. We work well together and he’s happy doing what I tell him.
“He knows that I’ve been there and done it and he’ll follow my instructions. He trusts me, he has no doubts.
“I’ve never been a negative thinker myself, so we are looking forward with confidence.”
Fannan is a coach with a winning record in championship boxing, boasting 13 victories and a draw in 24 major fights.
There is no doubt he has the experience and expertise, though he is a little reluctant to admit it.
“I think so, I don’t like saying too much because I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I know what I’m doing,” he said.
And Fannan says he and, more pertinantly, Ward, will give it absolutely everything on the night.
When Ward became the Commonwealth champion in December, his win against Gabriel Laryea was an absolute cruise.
But Fannan admits Hall is an entirely different animal.
“To win a world title you have to win more convincingly than Martin did,” said the coach. “Stuey is better than Laryea, that is for sure.
“Martin won convincingly that night but Stuey is the champion and home fighter here. But Martin will be putting it all on the line.
“Finishing a good second will not suit me, we’ll gamble if that’s what we’ve got to do.
“Cruising to second place is not what we’re here for.”