Ward 'in a good place' ahead of fight in Canada on Thursday
Joe Ward is aiming to deliver the ninth win of his professional boxing career in Canada tomorrow (Thursday) - and he intends to be back home in time to march with Athlone Boxing Club in the town's St Patrick's Day parade on Sunday!
The 29-year-old Moate man is facing Mario Andrade Rodriguez in Quebec, on the undercard of an IBF light heavyweight title eliminator between Haitian-born Canadian boxer Jean Pascal and German Michael Eifert. The bouts will be shown on pay-per-view on the FITE streaming service.
Ward's opponent has a flawless record to date, of seven wins and no defeats, but this will be Rodriguez's first fight outside of his native Mexico.
The eight-round bout will be Ward's first of 2023, and when he spoke to the Westmeath Independent on Monday he emphasised the importance of this year in his pro boxing journey.
"As I've said before, this is a really big year for me and I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead. I have to push on and make a statement this year," he said.
"At the moment I'm ranked 32 in the world on Boxrec (the online boxing database), which is great for a guy with nine fights, but I want to push into the top 20 this year.
"I've been talking with my team about taking on some big fights and maybe bringing a fight back to Ireland at the end of this year or early next year."
Ward knows little about Rodriguez, his opponent tomorrow, but said he was keen to take on fighters with winning records as opposed to journeymen he would be expected to beat easily.
"When I'm coming up against fighters with winning records, they're coming to win. I have to be on my 'A' game, and if the opportunity is there to be ruthless I have to be ruthless," he said.
In recent weeks, Ward has been training at Bout Fight Club in New York City, under the tutelage of his coach, former world champion Joey Gamache.
"I couldn't be happier with the way things have gone over the last number of weeks. I've been sparring with some good-quality fighters, so I'm in a good place and I'm buzzing to fight on Thursday," he said.
"Joey Gamache has been putting in the work with me. We're working hard and he's confident that I'm improving.
"That's always good to hear from someone like him, because he's been a great fighter and he's a great coach. He feels I'm getting better as a fighter and he believes there's more to come."
The card on which Ward is fighting this week takes place in Place Bell, an ice hockey arena in the Montreal suburb of Laval.
"It's building up to St Patrick's weekend and there's a lot of Irish out here. I'm hoping they'll come out and support me, and I'm hoping to put on a great performance for them," Ward said.