MARTIN Ward is convinced he will become Wearside’s first ever world boxing champion next month.
The 25-year-old Commonwealth bantamweight title holder is set to put the seal on a meteoric 20-month rise in his professional career by overcoming Darlington’s IBF bantamweight title holder Stuart Hall in their showdown at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle next month.
And Ward says that although it will be the toughest fight of his career, he is confident he will hear the words: “and the NEW world champion...” at the end of it
At a Press launch held at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead yesterday, overlooking the venue where both men will do battle on March 29, local, national and international media were there to cover a big-time bout and a bill which is likely to include star-studded names like Bradley Saunders and Frankie Gavin, as well as British cruiserweight champion Jon Lewis Dickinson.
It will be a long and attractive list of fights, which Sunderland promoter Phil Jeffries has been involved in putting it together.
But no matter how attractive the undercard might be, all eyes will be on the main event and the unique occasion when two North East boxers fight for a world title.
“It’s never happened before in the history of the region and it might probably never happen again,” admitted West Rainton boxer Ward.
“I know the likes of Glenn McCrory and Billy Hardy have fought for world titles – they’re boxing legends in the region – but we’ve never had two North East lads fighting it out between each other for a world title before.
“That’s what’s going to happen next month and I think the best thing of all is that it’s going to happen here on our doorstep, right in front of North East boxing fans.
“They don’t have to go to Las Vegas for a world title fight – it’s here at home – and it will be a genuine fight because I know how much I want that belt, and I know how much Stuey wants to keep it.”
Ward and Hall know each other well from years together on the boxing circuit, going back to their amateur days.
Ward’s trainer, Neil Fannan, formerly trained 33-year-old Hall, while the pair have sparred with each other on occasions. And Ward believes that will give him an advantage.
He told the Echo: “Every young boxer dreams of growing up to be a world champion and I’m no different, but I know I’ll never get a better chance than this.
“It’s not as if I’ve fighting some 30-time unbeaten American, I’m fighting Stuey Hall, someone I know really well, and that takes away any fear factor or any unknown factor for me.
“He’s a terrific boxer and a person to admire, but I know him well and, because I know him well, I’ve got no worries – there’ll be no surprises – and I’m convinced I can beat him.”