WEST Rainton champion Martin Ward will travel away from home in pursuit of the British bantamweight title next month and standing in his way will be one of the most highly-rated boxers in Europe, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
But Ward’s trainer Neil Fannan reckons that if anyone is up for the challenge, then it is the 24-year-old who produced a performance of typical courage and character to claim the English bantamweight crown at the Rainton Meadows Arena last October.
Ward (pictured) went the distance in an all-action contest to overcome Nottingham’s classy Jason Booth and claim the first belt of his career, but immediately set his sights higher.
He told the Echo straight after winning the title: “I just want this to be the first of many.
“I’m a boxer in a hurry and I’m keen to move up as quickly as possible, I’d love to get a shot at the British belt next.”
Sunderland promoter Phil Jeffries helped make that ambition come true when he brokered a fight with Bristol’s Lee Haskins for the vacant belt.
But despite the Sunderland camp making a strong offer, they narrowly lost the purse bids which means that when the two fighters get it on, on Saturday, April 27, the fight will take place in Bristol’s City Academy – the first title fight held in the city since 1998.
Jeffries told the Echo: “We really wanted to stage the title fight in the North East and we made very strong efforts to do that but we were just outbid.
“I was gutted, to tell you the truth, but I’ve still got every faith in Martin.”
As has Fannan, who said: “Martin’s about as single-minded a fighter as you can get and I can tell you it won’t make a jot of difference to him whether he fights at home or elsewhere.
“All he’ll be focused on is the fight and his opponent.
“I’ve got no doubts that where Martin fights won’t make any difference to his performance on the night.
“Obviously you can worry a little bit about how decisions can go when you’re away from home, but that’s just an extra incentive to me and to him to make sure that he really does do himself justice.”
Ward is sure to have his hands full on fight night – while he is ranked number three in terms of challenging for a European title, Haskins is ranked number one and the 29-year-old has an impressive record of 29 pro fights, 26 won (11 knockouts) with just three losses, compared to Ward’s 17 fights, 16 won (four knockouts), one defeat.
But Fannan said: “Martin’s in great shape, he’s in the right place mentally and we’re just working on getting his training schedule right so that he peaks at the right time going into the fight.
“It’s going to be a tough fight because both are very good boxers, but Martin Ward will be going there to win and it doesn’t matter to him where he’s fighting – he wants that British belt.”