Ward one step from world title shot in dream Vegas debut

Martin J. Ward is fulfilling a lifelong dream by fighting in Las Vegas, knowing that victory over South African southpaw Azinga Fuzile at the Michelob ULTRA Arena on May 29 should propel him towards a long-awaited world title shot.

Brentwood stylist Ward (24-1-2 11 KOs) admired former featherweight king Naseem Hamed in his youth and used to stay up through the night to watch the Sheffield showman in his excursions across America.

Now Ward finds himself in a final eliminator for the IBF title, currently lying vacant, with the slick Fuzile (14-1, 8 KOs) standing in his way.

“I was a big Naz fan and stayed up to watch him fight Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas and in all his fights all over the States,” said the Tony Sims trained Ward. “It has been a childhood dream of mine to fight in Vegas on the big stage, and here it is, and I am not going to let this slip through my fingers. I’ve trained too hard and put too much of my life into this to let it go.

“Motivation has not been an issue at all in this camp, I’ve been training so hard, and I’ve been flying, smashing it in the gym and on the track, it’s all coming together at the right time and I’m just so excited. Over the last year there have been a few opportunities that have come up, so I didn’t want to get too excited as a couple of them fell through and I had started to get my weight down for them. I was chomping at the bit for them, so it was frustrating, so I took this one with a pinch of salt really, I just wanted a date to be sorted, and when it was cemented in place it was great.

“He’s a slick southpaw, has some impressive wins on the record and only has one loss and he was winning that fight until he got chinned. He looks a good fighter and hopefully our styles will gel, and we’ll put on a good fight for the fans. I haven’t fought in over a year, but it’s been over 18 months for him, but it depends how you live outside the gym, I live the life, I keep a healthy lifestyle and training makes me happy, it’s part of me.

“I won the British title in 2016 and then won it outright in the space of 10 months against three southpaws so it’s funny how I’m now facing another southpaw in this massive fight. All those fights have built up my experience and it’s all fallen into place; I just need to put it all together on the night.

“He’s elusive, sharp, counters well and has good defence with the shoulder roll, but I am going to nullify all that and take him out of his comfort zone and do a job on him. I’ll be too smart, and I think I’ll be too big and strong for the guy. I’m so close to where I want to be.”