MARTIN Ward is just eight days away from his big Commonwealth title fight in Newcastle.
And coach Neil Fannan insists his fighter could not be looking any better.
Ward leads a five-strong pack of Hartlepool boxers next Saturday at the Centre for Sport, which includes brother Tommy, team-mate Robert Ismay and undefeated Gus Robinson Developments duo Peter Cope and Anth Hardy.
But the 25-year-old is the star attraction as he challenges for the vacant Commonwealth bantamweight belt against African star Gabriel Laryea.
It is the Dave Garside-managed star’s second title tilt of the year, having been stopped by Lee Haskins in Bristol where he lost inside five rounds in a crack at the British championship in April
“I’m not normally one to get carried away and say we’ll do this or that,” Fannan told SportMail.
“But I’m full of confidence, which is odd because I’ve never seen Laryea fight before.
“He could be Floyd Mayweather Junior’s brother for all I know.
“What I do know though is Martin looks fabulous and he’s come back from the defeat to Haskins and made himself an even better fighter.
“I’m loathe to say this because all trainers seem to come out with it before their boxer fights for a title.
“But I’ve never seen Martin looking fitter or stronger.
“It’s not just talk, it’s the truth.
“When we went to Bristol I had full faith in Martin’s ability, but was thinking ‘we’re away from home and we may need a thing or two to go our way’.
“This time, I’m expecting a belt and I’ll be disappointed if it does not happen.”
Despite his optimism, Fannan said Laryea will not be taken lightly.
The African’s record of 16 wins, two draws and two defeats is very similar to that of Ward who boasts 17 victories from 19 appearances.
Laryea, from Ghana, has boxed 129 rounds and his KO percentage is a highly impressive 55.
“Accra is the capital of African boxing,” said Fannan. “That’s his home city and he has a record which deserves respect.”
Tommy Ward will take on old Cope foe Qasim Hussain next Saturday while Ismay has a light-heavyweight battle with Sheffield’s Lee “Dynamite” Duncan.
Cope has the biggest test of his career against former British, Commonwealth and world super-bantamweight title challenger Sean “Short Fuse” Hughes.
“Horden Hitman” Hardy has yet to get a opponent for the Mark Clauzell-promoted show.