Martin Ward may be going into next month’s world title fight as a firm outsider, but he believes there is little to choose between him and Stuey Hall.
Darlington’s Hall is the IBF world bantamweight champion. European champion Ward has only had three title fights – winning the English belt in 2012, but losing the British equivalent last year.
But the records of the two are remarkably similar.
The man from West Rainton has a 18(4)-2-0 professional record, compared to Hall’s 16(7)-2-1. They meet at Newcastle Arena on March 29 in what will be a huge occasion for North East boxing.
“If you look at our records we’ve boxed five of the same opponents,” he said. “He lost to (Lee) Haskins, I lost to Haskins. I beat (Jason) Booth, he lost to Jamie McDonnell. He boxed (Ian) Napa and he was getting beaten until Napa retired. I schooled Ian Napa.
“We’ve sort of followed each other along. Stuey got there first because he turned pro before I did. I followed him and I’ve been knocking on the door ever since.
“We thought we were going to fight for the British (title), it didn’t happen.”
As well as fighting Haskins and Napa, the pair have both beaten Adrian Fuzesy, Dai Davies and Anthony Hanna.
Where Hall has the edge is that March 29 will be his tenth title fight, and he has five times been the 12-round distance, something Ward had never done until he comfortably beat Gabriel Odoi Laryea in December. In defeating Vusi Malinga to become only the second North East man to win a world title, Hall showed what a difficult man he is to beat. He has never been beaten inside the distance.
At 26 Ward is the younger man – Hall turned 34 on Monday. With Birtley’s Jon-Lewis Dickinson fighting Neil Dawson for the British title and one from Sunderland’s Kirk Goodings and Fishburn’s Gary Fox taking on Jamie Sampson for the English belt, it promises to be a huge night for the region’s boxing community.
“This is big for North East fans, whether you’re on my side or Stuey Hall’s,” said Ward. “There’s going to be a North East champion regardless of the result. It’s just nice for the fans to turn out and support the North East.
“We’re making history here and it’s nice to be part of it.
“I’ve known Jon-Lewis since I was 14 years old at Birtley. We’ve won amateur and professional titles together. He had his best win against Dave Dolan, I beat Ian Napa on the same card. So to be sharing a bill with Jon-Lewis again gives me a bit of confidence because we seem to do well when we box together.
“When he beat Dolan, my gym-mate at the time, I thought, I’ll have to beat Napa now! If he does a number on Neil Dawson, I’ll have to do a number on Stuey.”
Ward will make history if he wins as the first member of the travelling community to win a world title. It is a thought which excites him.
“That’s a challenge in itself,” he said. “Henry Wharton, the lad from York, fought Nigel Benn (in 1994) and came up short and Andy Lee, another traveller from London, fought (Julio Cesar) Chavez Jnr (in 2012) and came up short, so to be the first one – bearing in mind Billy-Joe Saunders and Tyson Fury are knocking on the door – to get in front of them and hopefully achieve it, I’d always been known as the first, and one of them the second.”