Martin Ward is ready to produce the performance of his life in what he predicts will be the fight of the year.
The West Rainton boxer will challenge James Dickens, better known as Jazza, for the Scouser’s British super-bantamweight title a week tonight.
Ward and Dickens, old friends and GB amateur team-mates, will fight it out at the Rainton Meadows Arena in Houghton.
It promises to be some confrontation.
Dickens is making the maiden defence of the famous belt he won back in March in a war of the roses in Liverpool after outpointing Yorkshire’s Josh Wale at the Echo Arena.
The 24-year-old is good. Very good in fact.
A southpaw, like Ward, he has won 20 of his 21 contests, six of his victories coming inside the distance.
Ward, three years his senior, boasts a similar record – 22 wins (five early), one draw and just two defeats.
To say the combatants are well-matched would be an under-statement.
“This is the most genuine 50-50 fight of the year,” Ward told the Echo.
“I don’t think there has been a closer title bout scheduled in 2016.
“You have Andy Lee and Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO world middleweight later in the year. That looks very hard to call.
“I would say me against James Dickens will be the tightest fight you could see.
“To have it here in the North East of England, I think, is fabulous not just for me, Neil, Dave and Jaffa but for fight fans up here.
“This fight on a show with no TV? I think it’s testament to the promoter and my team that they are putting on what I think could be the fight of the year.”
The men he mentioned there are coach Neil Fannan, manager Dave Garside and promoter Phil Jeffries.
They have put their money where their mouths are, winning the purse bids to put this showdown on.
“I’m over the moon that Phil, Dave and Neil have secured me home advantage and that makes a big difference,” said Ward.
“I don’t fear any fight, I went down to Bristol to challenge for the British title against Lee Haskins, who is now fighting for the world title.
“I’ll fight anyone at anytime. I want to be the best and to do that you have to fight and beat the best. “
Ward rates his foe highly but believes he will win.
“A lot of people are expecting James just has to turn up to win, but I’m expecting something different,” he said. “I think he’s a good fighter – you don’t win the British title if you aren’t good.
“I don’t think he’s a superstar, yet, as a lot of pundits make him out to be.
“He took a heavy KO defeat by Kid Galahad, but, in fairness, he was winning the fight up to that point.
“He’s a good kid, but so am I.”