Joe Ward has to settle for silver in Doha

Irish fighter beaten by Cuba’s Julio La Cruz in light-heavyweight world championship final

Ireland’s Joe Ward lost out to Julio La Cruz in the light-heavyweight final. Photo: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

Ireland’s Joe Ward lost out to Julio La Cruz in the light-heavyweight final. Photo: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

 

Just over 24 hours after Michael Conlan became the first Irish man to claim gold at the World Boxing Championships, Joe Ward was unable to follow his team captain to the top of the podium as he came up short against the mercurial defending champion, Julio La Cruz of Cuba.

Already assured of a first Olympic appearance by virtue of making it to this evening’s final at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena, Ward was in no mood to settle for second best against the two-time world champion as he had done in 2013.

The Moate light-heavyweight, a world champion at junior and youth levels, immediately set about trying to avenge that semi-final defeat, fighting off the front foot as he attempted to boss the ring in the opening exchanges. Both were made to miss before the fight settled into any sort of rhythm but despite Ward finding his way through with at least two heavy left hands, the more polished work came from La Cruz who took the round on all three judges’ cards.

Now needing to chase the fight, Ward tried to take the fight to La Cruz in the second round but struggled to pin the Cuban down. And with La Cruz content to stay on the outside and pick off the 21-year-old Irishman, Ward again found himself on the wrong side of the scoring.

Faced with a real mountain to climb in the third and final round, Ward knew he needed a monumental three minutes to swing the contest his way. But all too often he was unable to get beyond La Cruz’s reach. He did hurt the Cuban with a left hook, opening up a nasty cut around La Cruz’s right eye. And although he had the better of the rest of the round, Ward ultimately came up short.

Regardless of Ward’s natural disappointment, his sliver medal rounds off another hugely successful World Championships for Billy Walsh’s Irish team coming alongside Conlan’s gold in the bantamweight division and a bronze medal for Michael O’Reilly in the middleweight class.

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