TONIGHT’S the night ... for championship glory, writes Roy Kelly.
That is the dream of West Rainton boxer Martin Ward, who meets Ghana puncher Gabriel Laryea for the vacant Commonwealth bantamweight title.
The rivals met for the first time yesterday at the weigh-in and tonight they will collide in the ring at the Newcastle Centre for Sport.
Ward has achieved much already in his boxing career – a silver medal at the World Cadets Championship and an English title as a pro, no mean feat given the man he beat was the brilliant Jason “Too Smooth” Booth.
The 25-year-old has also challenged for the British crown, losing to European number one Lee Haskins in Bristol back in April.
But Ward believes tonight will be the night when he collects his first major title.
“I’ve done all right so far, but this will be my biggest title,” Ward said.
“Obviously I had the chance of the British against Lee Haskins and that time I came up short.
“Of course I still want that title like all British boxers do.
“But this is the next best thing, the Commonwealth title is a great prize in the sport and I intend to get it.
“I aim to make not only tonight my time but the next few years.
“I think there are a few good years in Martin Ward and tonight will just be the start.”
Ward though acknowledges it will not be easy – Laryea has arrived in the North-East with a fearsome reputation in his home continent.
The 23-year-old, from Accra, has an almost identical record to the Dave Garside and Neil Fannan fighter.
Laryea has won 16, lost two and drawn two compared to the impressive Ward log of 17-2-0.
But the difference comes in the stoppage stakes, the African has won 11 times inside the distance – a 55 per cent KO ratio compared to 21 per cent of Ward.
The NES Securities-sponsored boxer is respectful of such figures but believe his talent and fitness will win the day.
“I feel in superb condition,” said Ward who weighed in yesterday bang on the championship limit of 8st 6lbs compared to the 8st 3.5lbs of his rival.
“Training has gone great, all the preparations have been right and I can’t wait to get in the ring.
“Gabriel has a very good record but he’s never fought someone like me before.
“To knock all those people out takes some doing, but I intend sending him home empty handed and winning that belt for myself.”