NEIL Fannan believes Martin Ward is as “good as anyone in Europe.”
And the Hartlepool trainer is confident his boxer will provide some proof of that assessment by winning the English bantamweight title on Sunday, September 30.
Ward has been matched with one of best British operators at the lighter end of the boxing market, Jason Booth, at the Borough Hall.
The 34-year-old, known as “Too Smooth”, is a former world title holder at super-fly and British and Commonweaalth champion at super-bantam, which includes a win over Hartlepool legend Michael Hunter back in 2009.
Even though Booth is in the twighlight of his career, Fannan is well aware of the Nottingham boxer’s skills.
And there is no doubting the heart and determination of a man who revived a career which looked over because of alcohol addiction.
But in Ward, Fannan believes he has the next big thing in the 8st 6lb division.
“Booth is very good as he has proved over many years and in several divisions,” Fannan told SportMail.
“But this fight will bring out the best of Martin.
“In my mind, he’s as good as anyone in Europe.
“He’s been ready for this step-up and I’m confident he will do it.”
Booth is a master of a championship contest - his last four bouts have all been for domestic or international belts.
Ward though has only completed 10 rounds once, a stunning points win over Ian “Dapa” Napa at the 2011 Summer Rumble in Sunderland.
The cockney, like Booth, has spent many years at the top of the game but had no answer to the sped and quality of the talented 24-year-old Hartlepool boxer.
“The better the fighter, the better you will see Martin box,” Fannan explained.
“He can step up to the mark and raise his game.
“That’s what he did against Ian Napa and,in my opinion, this fight will go the same way – Martin will outbox him.”
Fannan believes there is nothing to get in the way of the 24-year-old’s bid for glory, not even any fitness concerns.
The Dave Garside-manged star was forced to pull out of a bout against Liverpool’s Mike Robinson at the 2012 Summer Rumble last month.
Ward’s hands were damaged following a bruising battle with George Gachechiladze which ended in an eighth round stoppage of the Georgian in Houghton back in May.
But Ward, Fannan insists, has no problems.
“Martin had these gel pads for his hands in the gym but they are already off,” Fannan said.
“I asked him if his hands were OK and he said they were as sound as they’ve ever been.
“He’s been braying away as normal so there are no problems, the hands are fine.
“He is a very very fit athlete.
“I knew once the long distance fights started that would suit him.
“The best fighters can go through the gears and the best are able to adapt and change fights, have a plan A, plan B and more.
“Martin has all that.”
Tickets are on sale for the Sunday spectacular which will also feature Ward’s team-mates Michael Hunter and Gary Fox, plus International Masters super-bantamweight her Peter Cope.
Ironically, it will be the first title contest at the Borough Hall since Hunter challenged for the vacant IBF world super-bantam belt against Steve Molitor in 2006.
“I’m excited,” said Fannan. “It is a great fight and will be a great show.”
l FOR ticket info, call Neil on 07891101399