Joe Ward aiming to book World Championships final spot
Moate southpaw up against Uzbek fighter a Rio Olympics finalist at middleweight
Ireland’s Joe Ward (red) in action during his quarter-final victory over Mikhail Dauhaliavets in the World Light Heavyweight quarter-final victory in Hamburg. Photograph: Aiba/Inpho
Day seven at the SportHalle just outside Hamburg’s main drag takes Joe Ward a step closer to his hopes of turning bronze and silver medals, won at previous World Championships, into gold.
Ward has already crossed a new frontier with his third world medal, a first in men’s Irish boxing. His ambition now is to grab what’s in front of him.
Between the Irish light heavyweight and his dream is Rio Olympic finalist Bektemir Melikuziev, who is also a silver medal winner from the 2015 World Championships in Doha.
The Uzbek boxer earned both his podium finishes at middleweight and has moved up a division since the end of the Rio Games, where he lost to Arlen López from Cuba in the gold medal match.
Ward has been cruising all week with his last bout a demonstration of control and movement, his driving straight right largely making the rest of his body a no hit zone.
The Moate Southpaw recorded his win in the previous round over Belarusian light-heavy Mikhail Dauhaliavets, all of the judges unhesitatingly giving it to the Irishman, 30-27-30-27-30-27,30-27,30-26. That booked his ticket into Friday’s 81kg semi-final.
Ward has come a long way since his 17-year-old debut at world level in 2011 and while he seems to have been around forever, he is still just 23-years-old.
In that respect he goes into the semi-final as the more experienced boxer, the Uzbek coming in at just 21-years-old. Melikuziev though, has had experience of competing in the World Series of Boxing, where he traded as a light heavyweight
He is also seeded second by the organisers and one of the stars of Uzbekistan, who carried the national flag at the closing ceremony in Rio.
Ward, who aside from Katie Taylor’s unmatched haul (five world gold, six European gold, Olympic gold), is the most decorated Irish boxer. His three European Championship wins alone would make him a clear and obvious threat.
The Irish southpaw is also hoping to cast out memories of Rio where the boxing team flat-lined just over 12 months ago.
Ward’s ambitions there took a disturbing turn for the worse in the Riocentro Arena. Seen as a medal contender he was beaten in the preliminary round, when he crashed out against the unheralded Ecuadoran, Carlos Mina.
He was controversially docked two points – one in the second round and one in the third round, which cost him the fight.
Victory tonight would perhaps not quite be redemption for the Irish boxer but would show Ward is again tracking in the right direction under the new Irish high performance director, former professional world champion, Bernard Dunne.
He competes in the eighth bout on the card with the other semi-final between Cuba’s Julio Cruz and Mina, Ward’s conquerer in Rio.