18 conquered with no exceptions, no excuses to be used here. With his most recent fight at Wembley Arena, he won the British title outright. Martin Joseph Ward, a talent we can expect to keep impressing us for years to come.
Born in Leeds, Ward was one of five children. After moving to Essex, whilst halfway through his secondary studies, he decided to drop out of school at the age of 14 - much of that decision remains a mystery. Two years later, he would go on to win international championships. Showing ring craft and boxing IQ from a young age, he and his brothers competed in the under 46kg weight class. The success kept coming for the young man with championships ranging from 2007-2011 and it was soon thought by most we would see an expert performance in the Olympics for Team GB.
Ward stayed on his path of being able to participate in the London 2012 Olympics. It was the 2011 World Championships where he placed an unexpected 17th after being outpointed by Robson Conceição. The dream of participating in the London Olympic games soon strayed from Ward’s mind.
The former European junior champion and representative for Great Britain would instead turn professional on the 8th September 2012. He won his first six bouts, all with ease.
A close call
In 2013 he would be involved in a neighbour feud which led to himself and his brother John being shot. The shooting happened on a farmland in Essex and the man responsible was sentenced to sixteen and half years. The two boxers were left with wounds to their legs and chest but fortunately survived with no critical conditions.
Ward would shortly return to professional boxing against slightly more experienced boxers. He showed no problems and dealt with each opponent easily and started to rack up the knock outs in his record.
Enter Maxi Hughes.
The fellow Briton posed the first challenge for the now 10-0 Ward. Whilst Hughes was not known for being a big puncher, an ‘accidental headbutt' would cause Ward to drop to the canvas and controversially called as a knockdown. Hughes surprised a lot of people that night and showed more than what people expected. With the fight going to the scorecards, it would end in a draw…The start of a trilogy.
Photo Credits: Leigh Dawney
They would meet again in the squared ring just 5 months later and Ward, anxious to make up for that draw now etched on his record. “Believe me, this rematch - I’m going to sort it out” A confident Ward would state before the fight.
Respect was earned that night. Both fighters put in more work and showed a tougher experience for each other. Ward constantly used his jab and footwork to keep his opponent busy, firing his backhand when the opportunity arised. The sharpness and hard work from Ward would see him victorious after a huge uppercut left Maxi Hughes failing to come out for the 6th round.
The path to the British title.
Ward would fight three more times against better quality of opponents than his previous victims. He dominated them and Wardy could soon set his sights on the vacated British Super Featherweight Title.
Andy Townend would be his opponent for the title clash after Liam Walsh vacates the title, perhaps a fight more would have wished to see. A record of 16-3 against Martin’s still undefeated 14-0. The O2 Arena awaited them, and everybody expected Ward to deal with the situation easily. Ward’s speed was clearly faster from the beginning, slipping and countering and dominating Townend. The amateur pedigree of Ward showed through as he feinted, moved, jabbed and controlled the fight with sharp movements and power punches. This fight showed Ward meant business, that he was elusive and smart. Townend would seem troubled for most of the fight with Ward landing most of his punches at will. Accuracy and timing would see Ward box Townend with no real problems for 7 whole rounds. The warrior Townend had been dismantled.
Photo Credits: Alex Livesey
Completing the trilogy
Now a champion and further glory to be achieved, Ward would choose the path to win his title outright. With that, the likeliness of facing his old foe and having his first trilogy was assured. Maxi Hughes loomed right behind him like a dark shadow. Although his draw avenged already; the two would meet again, this time in Manchester.
With knowledge of each other, the fight took a faster pace and both fighters could be seen getting caught with easier shots. Counters were constant and both fighters had shown their improvements since their first meeting three years prior. Ward appeared the more confident fighter, but that undefeated cockiness left him taking punches with violent intentions. Whilst taking them well, it was showing Ward would need to concentrate more. As the fight went on, punches were thrown in higher combinations supported by class footwork, the judges would be needed for one hell of a competitive fight. Wardy stayed the top dog by unanimous decision and he could look forward to moving up the higher levels of the art of boxing.
And the rest is future
Martin J Ward, slowly but surely becoming the one to watch. He would face Anthony Cacace in hopes of adding the Commonwealth title to his British crown, just two days after his 26th birthday. He considered it to be a tough fight, having heard of his opponent in the amateurs. It would win the British title outright, two unbeaten fighters and eager to prove themselves. Cacace having mostly fought journeymen except for Ronnie Clark, would (on paper) appear to be the toughest test for MJW.
The fight was close but all three judges awarded the win to Ward. Many ponder what the future holds for him, would he compete at the world level which is currently dominated by Lomachenko? Would he dare to take on the master in the future? Will he avenge his loss in the amateurs to Robson Conceição - the man who stopped him from going to the Olympics. It is all speculative, but those who challenge themselves are the ones who go down in the history books. Whether it’s a rematch with Cacace or a step into the world level, you can bet that it’ll be exciting.