MARTIN Ward admits he will feel a twinge of disappointment when Darlington’s Stuey Hall steps into the ring tonight to defend his IBF world bantamweight title.
The Hartlepool-trained boxer is still recovering from an eye injury sustained when the pair met in Hall’s first defence back in March.
“It’s just one of those things,” the 26-year-old told SportMail. “But I would be lying if I didn’t think that it might be me taking on Stuey Hall again.
“It was just disappointing that my title fight ended in the circumstances that it did when it could have been a great fight.”
Ward and Hall’s showdown – the first world title fight between two North East boxers – was declared a technical draw after a clash of heads in the opening round forced referee Phil Edwards to call a halt after consulting with the Hartlepool corner.
“Stuart came in with a right hand and as he rolled around he caught me,” recalled Ward of the head clash which left a huge wound gushing blood over his right eye.
Tommy Conroy was working Ward’s corner that night and did his best to stem the flow.
But as Ward came out fighting for the second round it was absolutely clear that it couldn’t go on.
Ultimately the deep cut required 15 stitches – six inside and nine outside – and had Ward been allowed to continue the risk was that it could have affected his future career.
“I was pretty angry when the fight was stopped,” admitted Ward. “The adrenalin is pumping so hard and you don’t care about the pain and you’re a fighter – you just want to fight on.
“But I understand now that it was absolutely the right decision to stop it.
“It was so bad that it could have affected my eyesight had I tried to keep going and you have to remember your health is the most important thing.”
Commonwealth champion Ward is on the comeback trail now, running and training in Neil Fannan’s Brierton gym.
Ward had hoped to fight again in Sunderland promoter Phil Jeffries’ latest Summer Rumble at the Stadium of Light next month but has agreed that it is too soon and it is prudent to give the eye a few more months to fully heal.
“I’m looking to make a Commonwealth defence now in September,” he revealed.
“People seem to have forgotten I’m the Commonwealth champion because my world title shot came so soon after I won that belt.
“There are a lot who think that I had a shot at a world title, missed out, and that’s that.
“But I’m still the Commonwealth bantamweight belt holder and I’ll be proud to go into the ring again later this year to defend it.”
It’s not beyond imagining that Ward and Hall might even meet again – Ward is tipping his last opponent to emerge triumphant again this evening.
“It’s an interesting fight,” he said. “But I’ve got no doubt that Stuey is better than Paul Butler and will have too much for him.”
Martin will be at the Metro Radio Arena tonight to support brother Tommy, the 20-year-old having his hardest fight yet, against one-time Martin opponent, South Africa’s Michael Ramabeletsa