Tommy Ward in a race to claim a world title for the North East after classy IBF European strap victory

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Tommy Ward knows he's in a race to claim a world title for the North East - as he's not the only fighter in the region with their eye on the prize.

Ward was at his slick, classy best at the Rainton Meadows Arena last night, as he outpointed Spaniard Alvaro Rodriguez (100-90, 100-90, 99-91) to claim the vacant IBF European title.

Tommy Ward with brother Martin Ward.

Tommy Ward with brother Martin Ward.

And having managed to get one belt round his waist, after giving up the British title recently, Ward is keen to get right in the world mix, which could be just one fight away.

Although, he knows he's not the only fighter from this neck of the woods keen to bring back a world title.

He knows the likes of Lewis Ritson, present on the evening, and Sunderland's Josh Kelly have also got lofty ambitions, which he believes is no bad thing for the sport in the region.

"I want to bring a world title to the area - but I am sure I will not be the only one," said Ward.

Ward throws the jab at Alvaro Rodriguez in his wide points win over the Spaniard.

Ward throws the jab at Alvaro Rodriguez in his wide points win over the Spaniard.

"It has always been my aim to win a world title - what boxer doesn't want that.

"I have one title, now I want the real title."

From round one the dominance of the home fighter told through.

Keen to establish the jab, Ward's hit and move bamboozled his continental dance partner, who despite looking strong at the weight lacked the speed to keep up with the County Durham fighter.

Left, right combinations got a fair bit of success as Ward dominated through the middle rounds, rarely looking like he was getting out of second gear.

That seemed to take the stuffing out of Rodriguez, who lost will and became ever more ragged as the fight aged, wanting to hold and stall at every available opportunity.

Clearly ahead in the contest, Ward put his foot on the gas in the ninth and looked to get his war-weary opponent out of there but it was to no avail.

Given a couple more rounds Ward might well have done the business in the style this performance deserved, but it was a very wide points call - not wide enough on one of the cards - that ensured the European strap was heading back to West Rainton with the Ward family.

"They put the fighters up and aIl I can do is beat who is in front of me," said Ward.

"This was, without doubt, a learning fight for me.

"It was a step in the right direction.

"He was a fighter who kept throwing bombs and I had to be aware of that but I felt I took the initiative away from him and it maybe on another day I might have brought the fight to an end, late on."