MARTIN Ward is convinced he will bring Hartlepool its first ever world professional title.
The town already has a world amateur champion in the shape of Savannah Marshall, from Headland ABC.
But Ward, the star turn of the Dave Garside and Neil Fannan camp, believes he can take the IBF bantamweight belt from Darlington’s Stuart Hall at Newcastle on Saturday, March 29.
While the 25-year-old acknowledges the historic North-East derby will be the toughest fight of his career, he is confident he will hear the words “and the NEW world champion” at the end of it.
The pair came face to face at a media conference at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead yesterday, just over the Tyne from the Metro Radio Arena they will be doing battle in next month.
“It’s never happened before in the history of the region that two North-East lads have fought for a world title and it might probably never happen again,” admitted the Commonwealth champion.
“I know the likes of Glenn McCrory and Billy Hardy have fought for world titles but this will be making history.
“I think the best thing of all is that it’s going to happen here on our doorstep, right in front of North East boxing fans.
“They don’t have to go to Las Vegas for a world title fight – it’s here at home – and it will be a genuine fight because I know how much I want that belt, and I know how much Stuey wants to keep it.”
Ward and Hall know each other well from years together on the boxing circuit.
The two have known each other from their amateur days and their respective trainers are close friends.
Ward’s coach Fannan has worked in the Hall corner, while Mick Marsden, trainer and manager of the IFB king, was part of Martin’s team when he won the Commonwealth title by outpointing Gabriel Laryea.
The two boxers have sparred with each other on occasions, meaning there is very little the pair do know about each other.
Ward said: “Every young boxer dreams of growing up to be a world champion and I’m no different.
“I know I’ll never get a better chance than this.
“It’s not as if I’ve fighting some 30-time unbeaten American, I’m fighting Stuey Hall, someone I know really well, and that takes away any fear factor or any unknown factor for me.
“He’s a terrific boxer and a person to admire.
“But I know him well so there’ll be no surprises and I’m convinced I can beat him.”
Glory has come late in Hall’s career and he says he is in no mood to give it all up in his maiden defence.
“I’m full of respect for Martin and I’m good friends with Neil,” said the 33-year-old.
“But it took all my will to come through and win the belt and I’ll be ready for this defence.
“I’ll be keeping hold of my belt.”