After almost a year out of the ring, Belfast’s Steven Ward is set to make his return on Wednesday night.
Last time we saw Ward in action was back in December, when he was stopped in one round by Ricards Bolotniks, in the MTK Golden Contract quarter-final. Coincidently, at the top of the bill on Wednesday are both the featherweight and super-lightweight Golden Contract finals, between James Dickens and Ryan Walsh, and Ohara Davies and Tyrone McKenna respectively.
Despite it being almost a year since his last fight, ‘The Quiet Man’ is raring to go and to get back between the ropes.
“I feel good. It’s short enough notice for the fight, I got told about 3 weeks ago but I feel good. I’ve been training away, everything is going well and I’m looking forward to it now, I’m looking forward to getting back in there.”
Although he was indeed in the ring last December, the last time he had meaningful rounds was in June against Liam Conroy.
“I got stopped in the first round, I don’t even think I’d classify that as a fight,” Ward said with sardonic laughter.
“My last proper contest was against Conroy in June, so it’s been a while, but it is what it is, I’m just happy to get back in there and lace up the gloves again.”
Pictured: Ward celebrates win over Liam Conroy (Photo credit: belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
Since his first defeat as a professional, Ward decided the time was right to move up to Cruiserweight, where he feels like he belongs.
“Light-heavyweight just took too much out of me at the end there. I just couldn’t do it. I always was big for the weight. When I first joined Jamie Moore’s gym, I told him I was a light-heavyweight, and he laughed at me.”
Although it is a new weight class for the 30-year-old, Ward is no stranger to fighting at the 14st 4lbs limit.
“I obviously boxed at cruiserweight in the amateurs for five years, got the commonwealth medal as well, but I feel good and I feel strong. It might take me a while to get into it and used to carrying the extra weight, but where I’m sitting now I feel very content.”
Wednesday night sees Ward face Jone Volau (5-5), in an all British affair. The last time Volau was in action was also back in 2019, where he was stopped by Simon Valily. Despite this loss, three of Volau’s wins have come against undefeated fighters, so the 37-year-old will be no pushover for Ward.
Pictured: Ward lands powerful right hand on former opponent (Photo credit: The Irish News)
The Belfast man is wary that the fight in a few days’ time will require him to be somewhere near his best.
“Normally it would just be a matter of getting some foreigners in and easing me into my new weight, but you don’t really have that opportunity anymore, which is maybe not a bad thing.
“This Volau guy has fought at heavyweight, and now he’s fighting at cruiserweight. He has 5 wins and 5 losses, so I think he’ll be a decent test for me being introduced into a new weight division, so I’m looking forward to it. I feel great.”
As with the current climate in boxing, less and less prospects are fighting journeymen. Fans are keen to see young fighters take step up fights one after another, and Ward is very much aware of this.
“I’d love to get bigger fights potentially after this one. I think I will have the opportunity to as well with the whole COVID-19 pandemic. People can’t just sit about as much as what they did before, so for me it’s just about going in and performing well in this fight and getting into form, then potentially kicking on after. But I leave that all down to management anyway. For me it’s just getting into the ring, feeling good and feeling good at the weight.”
It is always important for a fighter to enjoy what they do and where they train, and that is most certainly the case with ‘The Quiet Man’. Alongside fellow Belfast man, Carl Frampton, Ward trains out of Jamie Moore’s gym. Moore, a former fighter himself, has one of the fastest growing and well respected gyms in Britain. As previously mentioned, former two weight world champion, Carl Frampton, trains there, as well as former world title challenger Martin Murray, WBO super-lightweight mandatory Jack Catterall, and many more elite boxers. So training for Ward is made a lot easier.
“The atmosphere is great. To be honest, it’s just a great laugh. You’re in the gym with all the boys, the craic is just brilliant. If you enjoy training, which we all do with Jamie, it makes the fighting a hell of a lot easier. You’re away from home and away from your loved ones, so it helps having a good atmosphere.
“We are all in it together. Making weight, training together and going through the hardships together. It makes the hardships more normal if you get me. The hardships of making the weight and stuff, you know that everyone else is going through the same thing, so it doesn’t feel as bad sometimes.”
Pictured: Ward winning Celtic light-heavyweight title in just his 8th fight (Photo credit: belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
As well as fighting at a new weight class, fighting behind closed doors is something that will be new for the Belfast man. However, the 6”2 heavy handed cruiserweight is not fazed by the lack of a crowd.
“I’m not bothered one bit to be honest. It doesn’t bother me at all. In the amateurs you would have fought in loads of places with no crowd or anything, all these countries, fighting in big sports halls and there would only be a handful of people there watching anyway. It might be different now in the professional setting, but it doesn’t bother me, it really doesn’t. I think it will be interesting.
“I haven’t dwelled on it or thought about it really. I think maybe people who didn’t have much of an amateur background would maybe think that way, but it doesn’t really make a difference to me to be honest.”
Although Ward is not looking too far into the distance, as he has business to attend to on Wednesday night, he is hoping to progress up the rankings as soon as possible.
“Briedis from the Super Series would be good,” Ward said with laughter in his voice, when asked who he wanted to fight next.
“In all seriousness though, I will fight anyone above me really, to be honest. I want to be mixing it with them. I could sit and name names until I’m blue in the face, but they’ll probably never come off.”
The 30-year-old is keen to put on an impressive display come Wednesday night, extend his record to 13 wins and put his name in the mix again domestically.