TOMMY Ward has warmed up for his biggest night in the boxing ring in style - by preparing the world champion for the second defence of his title.
The young Hartlepool talent, who only left his teens behind a fortnight ago, will box a six-rounder against South Africa’s Michael Ramabeletsa at Newcastle on Saturday night.
Ward will take on the 32-year-old, originally from Soweto but now fighting out of this country, on the undercard of Stuart Hall v Paul Butler at the Metro Radio Arena.
And the Neil Fannan and Dave Garside featherweight has spent the last few weeks working with Hall as he helped the Darlington star build up to his IBF bantamweight clash with fellow Englishman Butler.
Trainer Fannan said: “Tommy has done 38 or 40 rounds with Stuey.
“He’s done a couple of eights, sixes and last Wednesday a 10.
“I’m not daft, I am not reading too much into it regarding Stuey, I know he truly comes alive when the light gloves go on and he steps into a fight.
“But I was very impressed with Tommy, he looked awesome.
“Last Friday he did eight rounds at a really, really hot pace and then boxed a four-round exhibition on the night in Darlington against a young pro.
“Tommy has looked so sharp but the thing I’ve noticed is that he’s matured into a man, physically and mentally.
“He’s an unbelievable talent and to be sparring so much with a current world champion can only make him better.
“You can’t fail to be impressed with him.”
On the subject of sparring partners, the NES SEcurities-sponsored 20-year-old will be fighting a man he has met in Fannan’s Brierton gym in March.
Ramabeletsa came to town to assist Martin Ward in his countdown to his IBF world title challenge against Hall.
Tommy also sparred with the African and performed well but Fannan is not getting carried away by that.
“Michael came up as number two sparring partner to Tshifhiwa Munyai.
“He’s a good lad and good fighter, but I think he came up mainly to see his old friend Tshi and earn himself a few quid.
“I’m not sure how serious he was with his work then but I think he’ll show more interest on Saturday.”
Ramabeletsa, who now lives in Lancashire, has a very fair record of 12 wins from his 24 appearances, triumphing in six of his last 10 contests.
But it is two of his defeats which have interested Fannan more.
He lost narrowly to Robbie Turley at Merthyr Tydfill and previously was beaten by only a point at Manchester by Ryan Doyle for the International Masters featherweight belt.
“I watched the Turley fight on Eurosport and thought Michael got robbed,” Fannan told SportMail.
“He was worth at least a draw and I think if he’d have just upped the pace in the last he might have got it.
“In the fight before he lost 95-94 over 10 rounds and had a point deducted for holding so he’s doing all right.
“He’s won quite a few as well so we’re treating him with full respect.
“But Tommy is boxing beautifully and while anything can happen in boxing, I’d be surprised an disappointed if it did not go our way on Saturday.”