Martin Ward claimed the vacant Commonwealth bantamweight title with plenty to spare in Newcastle on Saturday night.
After the margin of the West Rainton fighter’s unanimous points victory over Gabriel Odoi Laryea – by 10, 12, and 10 points on the judges’ scorecards – it was possible to believe the 25-year-old’s claim he could have boxed twice as long.
“I had plenty in the tank,” he insisted afterwards. “It was a matter of being mentally focussed for 12 rounds.
“I could easily have got carried away, thrown a few more shots, landed a few more, but it was all a case of being clever from start to finish.”
It was the first time in his 18-fight career Ward had been the 12-round distance.
“Neil Fannan’s been training me for four years now and he’s always taught me from the very first day, we don’t train for four-round fights, we train for 12,” he said.
“That’s paid off and I didn’t tire for one bit. I could have done another 12.”
Ghanaian Laryea was a surprisingly lacklustre opponent and Ward simply made sure he did more than him in almost every round, without taking unnecessary risks.
Ward reflected: “At the end of round eight, I think it was, Neil said, ‘He needs a knockout now, he’s going to have to put a bit more into it.’ I thought that would be the case.
“I think it was round nine where he started to come out a bit but once I put him back in his pen he settled and he was quite happy to see it through. I knew I was winning so I just did what I had to do.”
This was Ward’s third title fight, each at a higher level than the last, and restored his record of having won more than he has lost. He insists April’s fifth-round stoppage by Lee Haskins for the British title did as much good for his self-confidence as bad.
“The Lee Haskins defeat didn’t really damage my confidence because I felt even though I only went five rounds I could mix it with the best,” he said.
“I’ve never really had a shortage of confidence.
“I’ve always believed I was championship level, but to have this belt, I’m just excited at the minute.
“It’s my mam’s birthday and I said I was going to win the belt for her. You couldn’t get a better present, could you?
“I promised my little girls I would bring it home for them and they will be chuffed in the morning when they see it.”
After the fight Ward was at great pains to pay tribute to his trainer, Hartlepool-based Fannan, who had started the night by guiding his younger brother Tommy to a four round points win over Qasim Hussain.
“It’s his dedication and his focus,” said Martin, when asked Fannan’s best qualities.
“He’s had setbacks, Dave Dolan fought for a couple of titles and didn’t quite do it, I fought Haskins and didn’t quite do it. For him to have so much dedication and so much hunger to want to produce a champion, he’s 54-years-old and to do what he does every single day of his life, it’s a credit to him.
“He’s a brilliant man, not just my trainer but my friend as well.”