MARTIN Ward can’t wait for the “dream” chance to become the Nortth-East’s third major world champion.
The Hartlepool-trained boxer will fight the region’s second-ever global winner, Stuart Hall, for the Darlington bantamweight’s IBF belt in Newcastle on Saturday, March 29.
Both boxers were at the media conference at the Gateshead Hilton today and will meet in the ring across the River Tyne at the Metro Radio Arena in seven weeks.
Hall is making the first defence of the title he won back in December in Leeds where he outpointed South Africa’s Vusi Malinga, while Ward is “stepping up” after clinching the Commonwealth crown by beating African Gabriel Laryea in the same month.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” said Ward, who is trained by Hartlepool coach Neil Fannan and managed by Dave Garside.
“I’d like to thank [promoter] Dennis Hobson for the opportunity to fight for the IBF bantamweight championship.
“It’s a dream for any fighter to box for a world title and I can’t wait.
“I know Stuey well and he’s a good fighter but I’ll be working very hard in the gym with Neil Fannan over the next seven and a bit weeks to be ready for it.
“I’m stepping up for this fight, but it’s a challenge I’m relishing and I’ll look forward to try to take Stuey’s belt off him.”
Ward, 25, will take a very good pro record of 18 wins from 20 appearances into the ring, a similar log to Hall, who has 16 wins and a draw from 19 outings.
But Hall has one advantage - the championship - and he does not plan on giving it up.
“I’m full of respect for Martin and friends with Neil,” said the 33-year-old.
“But I’ll be ready for this defence and I’ll be keeping hold of my belt.”