MARTIN Ward is ready to rise a level and fight for a major title.
Ward has suffered frustration after frustration in 2012, with the postponement of a number of proposed title openings.
The 24-year-old had been lined up for an English bantamweight championship contest in St Helens in March and then at the Dave Garside and Phil Jeffries-promoted show at Houghton-le-Spring on Sunday.
Neither came off and nor did an International Masters contest.
In the end he had to settle for a 10-round international match with George Gachechiladze, stopping the Georgian after two minutes, 15 seconds of the eighth.
“I think I deserve a title shot, I’ve done my apprenticeship,” Ward told SportMail.
“I’ve beaten all they’ve wanted me to beat.
“I want to fight the best fighters in the world and I believe I can do that.
“I really do feel I can mix it with the best.
“I’m not saying I’ll beat them but I know I can share the ring with the top boxers
“All I want is a chance to see if I’m as good as I think I am.”
Ward is capable of turning on the quality, as he proved by beating seasoned championship campaigner Ian Napa over 10 entertaining rounds at the Stadium of Light last July and South Africa’s Michael Ramabeletsa at Houghton in September.
He has won his last three inside the distance, a sequence which compares very favourably with one stoppage success in his first 13 appearances.
But Sunday’s win was one of his least convincing displays.
Yes, the finish was clinical – a peach of a right to the left side of Gachechiladze’s body – but the fluency, so often the Ward trademark, only made fleeting appearances.
Instead, he too often found himself rattled by the direct and spoiling tactics of the 25-year-old from eastern Europe.
While he was never in any danger of losing, or being hurt, he was put out of his stride by Gachechiladze who threw a large volume of punches.
And the gifted West Rainton boxer says Sunday’s fight has been a timely kick to the rear of his sparkly blue shorts.
“Boxing the best fighters will bring out the best in me,” he said.
“When I was training to fight George I wasn’t worried about him, I never had the nerves a fighter should have.
“May be that was why I was slow out of the blocks and he caught me more than I’d normally expect to be caught.
“But once I was switched on I pulled it off. And I showed on Sunday that I can mix it as well as box,
“I’m not a one-trick pony who can just stand there and box, I can do everything and in one respect it was nice on Sunday to be able to show that.
“That’s what I needed, to know that every fight is not going to be a walk in the park where I can be my usual flashy self and look good.”
Ward explained he responded to a few well chosen words from Fannan between rounds.
“Neil said I’d given George no respect and he was right,” explained the boxer.
“It was wrong of me, I knew what a good tough fight he’d given Craig Lyon over six rounds.
“He was running at me, grabbing and spoiling and I couldn’t be my usual flashy self.
“Don’t get me wrong I still got off some lovely shots and the punch that finished it was a beautiful right to the body.
“But I was overdoing it early on, looking for big shots instead of just letting them come.
“I totally trust Neil and what he says.
“I was too ragged in round seven and he just said ‘pick your shots and when the gap’s there, then dig it in.
“In the eighth that gap came and the end was spectacular, most bantamweights would have gone down from that.”