MARTIN Ward and championship boxing are five words which do not seem to sit together at this time.
But coach Neil Fannan insists that situation is about to change for his Hartlepool-trained fighter – and fast.
Ward had been due to challenge for the English bantamweight crown in March, only for Scouse opponent Craig Lyon to pull out of the contest because of injury.
Promoters Dave Garside and Phil Jeffries then exhausted all possible avenues of opponent when they announced their intention to stage an English championship bout at Houghton-le-Spring yesterday.
They instead settled for the consolation prize of the International Masters bantamweight belt against George Gachechiladze.
Boxing’s gods though are conspiring to give Ward a difficult journey after that particular match also fell through.
The 25-year-old opponent failed to arrive on Saturday from Georgia for the official weigh-in, so while yesterday’s clash went ahead at the Rainton Meadows Arena, it did so only as a 10-round top-of-the-bill contest.
Not that Gachechiladze made it through to the final ring of the bell of timekeeper Stewart Lithgo, the former Commonwealth cruiserweight champion.
Gachechiladze’s long and arduous journey from eastern Europe ended painfully – two minutes and 15 seconds into round eight when he was floored by a wicked right hook to the body from Ward.
The Georgian was up quickly and received a standing eight count from Mark Curry.
But it became clear the rugged opponent was in some pain and when he could not continue, the Houghton referee waved it off.
It was Ward’s 15th win of his flourishing career, which totals 16 bouts, and his third stoppage success in a row.
A classic Ward display it was not.
Yes, there were flashes of the 24-year-old’s brilliance and it was an exciting scrap to watch, but he took more punches than he would ordinarily take though it has to be said that Gachechiladze was never going to stop him.
Gachechiladze was awkward, ungainly, ugly, however you want to describe it, in his approach – he even cut the home favourite outside his left eye in round four, a wound which later required two stitches.
He took Ward into the trenches and the former World Cadet Championship silver medallist showed he could fight as well as he can box by jumping in and hammering him into submission.
“Martin needs a proper fight – a title fight,” Fannan told SportMail.
“I said to Martin after two rounds that he had given the lad no respect and he said ‘you are probably right’.
“Gachechiladze did not have a bad record at all, but I think he just thought he was going to get him out of there easily.
“I don’t think Martin looked upon it as a challenge.
“He needs a fight and an opponent which is going to put some fear into him.
“I think something will happen title wise now and hopefully it will come off next fight.
“We were very frustrated at the weekend – we paid extra money to get Gachechiladze and his people here on Saturday but we got a message through from his agent that he was stuck in Amsterdam and would arrive on the day of the fight.”
Fannan did have a clean sweep of wins at the Wearside venue.
Fishburn’s Gary Fox warmed up for his Northern Area title fight against Neil Hepper in Sunderland on July 15 by beating East Londoner Johnny Greaves.
Fox, busy throughout, took all four rounds on the scorecard of referee Andrew Wright.
His Brierton stablemate Robert Ismay extended his winning run to five bouts since turning pro when the Gateshead light-heavyweight outpointed Hull’s Phil Goodwin 59-55 over six rounds.