Boxing champion Tommy Ward hopes sparring session can inspire Sunderland to Luton win
Sunderland boxer Tommy Ward hopes a light-hearted sparring session will help two Sunderland first-teamers during this weekend's League One battle with Luton.
Luke O'Nien and new signing Jimmy Dunne were put through their paces at Birtley Boxing Club on Thursday afternoon, ahead of their important fixture at the Stadium of Light.
Ward, an undefeated British super bantamweight champion, knows all about the pressures of professional sport and is currently preparing for a world title fight against American boxer Jesse Fernandez in Kansas on February 5.
This was the first time Ward, who is based in West Rainton, had met the two Sunderland players, with Dunne only signing for the club from Burnley on Wednesday.
But Ward believes the duo are in good shape ahead of this weekend's clash against the Hatters, who are one place above the Black Cats in the table.
"It gives them a little insight of how boxers train, they’ve done really well," said Ward.
"Mentally and physically they’re in a very good place and are looking really well and looked like they really enjoyed it.
"I was glad just to give them a little look into how boxing is, it’s mentally tough but so is football, they’ve got to be mentally tough to last these games."
O'Nien and Dunne didn't hold back as they took part in a sparring session at the club, with Ward passing on regular tips.
So was the boxer worried about one of them picking up an injury?
"It was more just a bit of fun of how things are done around here, they seemed to enjoy it so I’m happy with that," said Ward.
Sunderland are expecting another huge crowd when they host Luton, with 4,000 visiting fans set to make the trip to Wearside.
Tickets are still available, while under 16s can cheer on the team for just Â£1 in a special ‘Kids for a Quid’ ticket offer, which must be purchased alongside a full-priced adult ticket.
The offer is also applicable to adult season card holders.
Adult tickets for the game are priced from Â£20, with standard tickets for under 16s Â£7.50.
You can find more details by visiting the club's website.