MARTIN Ward has been handed a shot at the British title.
The 24-year-old bantamweight from West Rainton won the English bantamweight title less than a fortnight ago.
He would normally be expected to make a title defence or patiently wait for the next step up.
But a meeting of the British Boxing Board of Control this week agreed to his camp’s submission that he was entitled to an immediate crack at the British belt. The fight will now take place within the next three months.
The decision has delighted Ward (right), his trainer Neil Fannan and Sunderland promoter Phil Jeffries, who is working on ways of bring the title fight to the North East.
Jeffries said: “It’s brilliant news and we couldn’t be more pleased for Martin. But for his team, the hard work starts here.
“Neil has to work on getting Martin ready for a British belt just 11 days after winning the English one. And as for the rest of us, we’re working on putting a bid together to ensure he’s able to fight for the title on home turf
“Ideally we’d like it to take place at the Rainton Meadows Arena just down the road from his home.”
Purse bids for the fight have to be in by November 14 and the fight itself has to take place by January 15 which puts Ward on a collision course with Jamie McDonnell, the current holder of the British, European and Commowealth belts.
The 26-year-old Yorkshireman is one of British boxing’s best prospects and Ward will have his hands full taking on a boxer of his calibre.
But the chances are that McDonnell will give up the belt before having to defend it.
Doncaster-born McDonnell is due to fight an IBF bantamweight world title eliminator a week tomorrow when he faces South African Vusi Malinga.
Should he win, he is almost certain to drop the British belt to concentrate on his world title shot. And that would mean Ward fighting for a vacant title with an opponent to be named.
Ward, who had to produce the performance of his career to defeat the classy veteran Jason ‘Too Smooth” Booth at Hartlepool Borough Hall last month, is excited at the prospect of a British title fight.
“I don’t care who I fight just as long as I fight them soon enough,” he said. “I waited a long time for my first title and having one means the world to me but I’m ambitious to move up as soon as I’m ready.”
Jeffries, meanwhile, is desperate to get the fight staged locally.
“That’s what we have to try to do for Martin,” he said. “It won’t be easy because it won’t be a cheap fight to win.
“I’ve been in touch with his manager Dave Garside about it and the work starts here in trying to put it on for North East fans. It’s almost certain to be a televised event.
“For the moment we’re just thrilled Martin gets to fight for the title straight away. It was clear that the board had to look at the fact that there hadn’t been a title defence of the British belt in more than a year and they decided it needed to be defended as soon as possible.”