WEST Rainton boxer Martin Ward has been given a dream chance – a shot at Stuart Hall’s IBF world bantamweight title.
Darlington’s recently-crowned world champion Hall will make his maiden defence against Ward at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on Saturday, March 29, with terms agreed yesterday.
The Echo revealed the possibility of a clash after Ward last month clinched the Commonwealth crown – which had been vacated by Hall – when he outclassed Gabriel Laryea in Newcastle last month.
His success against the Nigerian lifted him to 15th in the IBF ratings, setting up the potential of a showdown with the Darlington fighter.
Hall and his team could pick any opponent in the world top 15 for a voluntary defence and they have chosen the classy Ward.
The contest makes sense – it guarantees not only a big crowd at the Metro Radio Arena but the belt staying in the region.
Ward, trained in Neil Fannan’s Hartlepool gym and managed by Dave Garside, will relish the challenge.
The 25-year-old has registered 18 victories from his 20 fights, a similar record to Hall, who has won 16 and drawn one of his 19 outings.
But the Darlington fighter, eight years his senior, will take some shifting as IBF king following a sensational 2013.
Hall won the IBF inter-continental title against America’s Sergio Perales and when world champion Jamie McDonnell was stripped of his crown, the County Durham boxer was handed a tilt at the vacant belt.
He took full advantage of his stroke of luck, outpointing South Africa’s Vusi Malinga in Leeds just before Christmas to become the region’s first major world champion since Glenn McCrory was cruiserweight champion in 1990.