JOE WARD DECLARED that he is “probably in the best shape” he has ever been as he steels himself for a test against Davey Joe Joyce at the National Elite Boxing Championships this evening.
Ward, 18, established himself as a force to be reckoned with at light-heavyweight when he outpunched 10-time national champion Kenny Egan to win last year’s decider.
Although his medal haul has proved that he’s no flash in the pan — a point restated by his gold at last summer’s European Championships — Ward knows that he needs to work towards Egan-like dominance at home as well.
That challenge begins tonight when he defends his national title for the first time against Joyce, himself a bronze medallist at the 2008 World Youth Championships.
“I have a lot more senior titles behind me than I had last year,” Ward told the IABA website, “and I’m not going to hand back the title that easy.
I’m looking forward to it as I’m probably in the best shape I was ever.
The light-heavyweight division can claim to be the most competitive at this year’s championships, with Egan squaring off against Eamon Walsh in the second semi-final tomorrow evening.
A torrid run of injuries, including a broken hand, has derailed Joyce’s upward progress since Guadalajara but the Ballinacargy man says that he’s not afraid to touch gloves with the division’s form fighters.
“To win the Seniors your going to have to beat them [Ward or Egan] along the way,” Joyce said. “They probably have the favourites tag but it wouldn’t bother me stepping in there.
For them to beat me they’re going to have to work hard for the three rounds, and they’re going to have to earn it.
Tonight’s card opens with a light-flyweight semi, with Hugh Myres and Evan Metcalfe squaring off for a right to face defending champion and Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes in the gold medal bout next week.
Michael Conlan, John Joe Nevin, Michael McDonagh, Adam Nolan, Darren O’Neill and Con Sheehan are also in action at the National Stadium tonight, where boxing begins at 19:00.
National Elite Boxing Championships 2012: Men’s semi-finals (Friday)
- 49Kg: Hugh Myres (Ryston) v Evan Metcalfe (Crumlin)
- 52Kg: Michael Conlan (St John Bosco) v Shane Roche (Corinthians)
- 56Kg: John Joe Nevin (Cavan) v Sean McComb (Holy Trinity)
- 60Kg: Michael McDonagh (St Marys) v Tyrone McCullagh (Holy Family GG)
- 64Kg: Ross Hickey (Grangecon) v Niall Murray (Gorey)
- 69Kg: Adam Nolan (Bray) v Willie McLaughlin (Illies GG)
- 75Kg: Darren O’Neill (Paulstown) v Conrad Cummings (Holy Trinity)
- 81Kg: Joe Ward (Moate) v David Joe Joyce (Ballinacargy)
- 91Kg: Tommy McCarthy (Oliver Plunkett) v Stephen Ward (Monkstown)
- 91+Kg: Con Sheehan (Clonmel) v Ken Okungbowa (Moate)