MARTIN Ward is desperate to show the world he is a worthy challenger by taking the IBF title from Stuart Hall.
The Hartlepool-trained boxer admits he feels “lucky” to be getting a shot at the International Boxing Federation’s bantamweight belt in Newcastle on Saturday, March 29.
But he says he will prove his credentials in the Metro Radio Arena ring.
Ward’s Commonwealth title triumph in December elevated him to 15th in the IBF ratings.
Hall and his team had to pick a challenger from the top 15 for a voluntary defence and, not surprisingly, they plumped for the lowest ranked fighter – Ward.
The Dave Garside and Neil Fannan southpaw admitted: “It’s been a very big queue and I thank my lucky stars I’ve made my way through it.
“Anyone will tell you that there is a lot of luck involved in boxing if you are to get to the top.
“I’ve had a stroke of good fortune to get this and I will try to grab it now.
“I’m determined to go in there and put on a performance.
“I want to show that I am a credible opponent, someone who deserves to be in that ring, fighting for that IBF belt.
“I aim to prove that I’m not a hand-picked voluntary defence who is going to get knocked out in three or four rounds.
“I want to do myself and Neil proud – if I do that I’ll be happy.
“I do believe I’m not just good enough to win but that I will actually win on March 29.
“I think if you ask anyone in the boxing world that knows us you’ll be hard pressed to get an answer as who is going to come out on top.”
Ward, who boasts 18 wins from 20 outings, says he has one thing going for him for the eagerly-awaited North-East derby – talent.
The 25-year-old told SportMail he is full of admiration for Hall who he considers a friend.
Ward said the Darlington fighter was a deserved winner of the vacant belt in Leeds in December, flooring Vusi Malinga early in the bout on the way to a unanimous points triumph.
But he believes he can be too quick and tricky for the new champion, feeling the veteran South African played into the 33-year-old’s hands in Leeds.
“The reason Stu looked better was because of his opponent,” he said.
“Malinga never moved out of the way, he’d take a shot just to get one off.
“Stu boxed the fight of his life and deserved it.
“But I think it came down to who was the hardest would win.
“Stuey obviously has a good chin because Malinga’s shots did not affect him.
“Malinga was slow, one-paced and older.
“I’ll be 26 just two weeks before the fight, I’m younger and fresher and will throw a lot more punches.
“Stuey likes to box at his own pace, double jab and right hand, and it’s up to me to take him out of his comfort zone.
“His right hand is pretty effective but if it doesn’t land then it’s not going to be effective, is it?”