Commonwealth champion Martin Ward in tribute to Hartlepool coach Neil Fannan

CHAMPION: Martin Ward celebrates. Picture by TOM COLLINS
CHAMPION: Martin Ward celebrates. Picture by TOM COLLINS

MARTIN Ward proudly gripped the Commonwealth championship belt and declared: This is for Neil Fannan as much as it is for me.

The Hartlepool coach, who has trained the gifted southpaw since he turned pro five years ago, had not won a major title since Argie Ward (no relation) had become the Commonwealth super-bantam champ in 2007.

Fannan has suffered a rare barren period over the past six years.

He came agonisingly close with David Dolan, who was awarded a draw with Rob Norton in January 2010.

But that has been one of six failed attempts at glory, the most recent being Martin Ward’s fifth-round defeat at the hands of Lee Haskins for the vacant British crown back in April.

“Neil has had several set-backs, particularly with David Dolan and with me against Lee Haskins,” Martin told SportMail.

“This is not a nice word to use but David got robbed against Rob Norton and I got caught by a good punch against Haskins.

“For Neil to have stuck with it is brilliant and I’m over the moon I’ve won it.

“He has shown great dedication and belief to keep going.

“That belt is as much for him as it is for me.

“At the age of 54 and having had the career he’s had, he could easily have said ‘Martin you are a good fighter but I haven’t got the heart any more to go on’.

“But he never has, he’s always said ‘I know we are going to win a title’ and now we have.

“After the Haskins fight, I could have had months off, but he didn’t let me.

“He got me straight back in the gym and he got me a fight on the Stadium of Light at the Sumer Rumble as a little confidence booster which is what I needed.

“And then I was straight back in training for the Commonwealth title.

“That’s great credit to Neil, he’s as hungry as his fighters.”