Ward to face opening world championship bout this weekend
JOE WARD's dream of qualifying for next summer's London Olympic Games is set to intensify over the coming week, as he prepares to go into battle at the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The reigning Irish and European light-heavyweight champion, from Moate, is one of a ten-strong Irish squad that arrived in Baku last Wednesday evening, following a lengthy and rigorous training camp in Cologne, Germany.
However, Ward - along with fellow Irish boxers Kenny Egan (heavyweight), John Joe Nevin (bantamweight) and Paddy Barnes (light-flyweight) - have had to wait to enter the ring, after the quartet received byes in last week's draw.
Ward received a bye to the last 32 courtesy of his second-placed ranking in the light-heavyweight division.
Ward now awaits the winner of the Dmitrov Stoimen (Bulgaria) and Abdurakhmonov Dilovasnoi (Tajikistan) bout, and will face either of those in the last 32 on Sunday.
Ward knows that winning two fights at the World Championships will see him automatically qualify for next year's Olympic Games, as each of the eight quarter-finalists at the World Championships gain automatic entry to the London Olympics.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent, from Baku, Ward said he's pleased with his side of the draw, and is fully ready for his opening bout on Sunday.
"I think I've a decent draw, but you can't underestimate anybody at this level, but I feel fit and ready, and fully focused. I admit I don't know the two guys I could fight in the last 32, but I have to be focused on the day (next Sunday).
"It's often the ones you don't know that are more dangerous. I'm definitely ready, we've spent the last three weeks training, between Germany and Baku, and I think I'm good enough to beat anybody out here. All the hard work and training is done, and hopefully I'll perform well. I hope to go a long way in this tournament," said Ward.
Ward said it was pleasing to be seeded number two at the tournament, behind only Yegor Mekhonstev of Russia, but said seedings are "worth nothing on paper", and that he has to prove his high ranking in the ring.
Despite being in Azerbaijan for a week, without fighting, Ward is staying patient, and is primed for Sunday's bout. I've been waiting to fight for a bit, but it's the same for many boxers here," he said.
"There's no point getting impatient or aggravated by it, you have to stay patient and focused. You can't get bothered about things you can't control. I'm just focusing on Sunday. I'll watch my potential opponents over the next couple of days, and take it from there. I'm ready to go, and looking forward to Sunday," added Ward.
Ward has long talked about a burning ambition to represent Ireland at the 2012 Olympics, and that dream could become reality if he boxes to form over the next couple of weeks.
Ward has made an enormous impact on both the Irish and European stage over the past year, culminating with winning the European Championships in Turkey in June, and is touted as a potential medal-winner in Baku, a venue where the Moate man has enjoyed success in the past.
Fight details for Irish squad
September 30th: 64Kg:(last 64): Ray Moylette (St Anne's) v Arturs Ahmetous (Latvia)
October 1st: 75Kg (last 64) Darren O'Neill (Paulstown) v Glodi Eneste (Norway); 60kg: (last 64) David Oliver Joyce (St Michael's Athy) v Mohammad Momevad (Iran)
October 2nd: 81Kg: (last 32) Joe Ward (Moate) v Dmitrov Stoimen (Bulgaria) or Abdurakhmonov Dilovasnoi (Tajikistan); 91+Kg: (last 32) Con Sheehan (Clonmel) v Faruth Kalonov (Tajikstan)
October 3rd: 49Kg: (last 32) Paddy Barnes (Holy Family) v Mark Barriga (Philippines); 56Kg: (last 32) John Joe Nevin (Cavan) v Filip Barak (Slovakia) or Akhil Kumar (India); 91Kg: (last 32) Ken Egan ( Neilstown) v Jose Larduet Gomez (Cuba).
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