Thomas Patrick Ward had hoped that 2020 would be the year he would fight for a world title. Highly ranked with the WBO, at just 26 years old he already has a 29-0 record. The pandemic has stalled all those plans but Ward returns to action this Saturday on Matchroom’s bill at the East of England Arena in Peterborough.
This bout was nearly derailed when a contest with Jose Martin Estrada Garcia, the WBO number 14, fell through. Thomas Essomba though has come in as a replacement opponent. “I’m just happy I’m still on the bill,” Ward told Boxing News. “It looks like 2021 is going to be the big year now.
“I was hoping to fight Garcia this time and it would have put me in an even better position. But things happen. I’m just thankful I’m still on the bill.”
Ward knows he needs a good performance, to serve notice that he remains a world title contender. “It’s a difficult one because with someone like Essomba you’re expected to beat him, you’re the bigger fighter, the better fighter. If you don’t go out there and perform then you get criticised but even if you go out there and beat him, you still get criticised. If I got out there and outbox him or stop him, people will say he’s too small so you’re expected to do that. If you go out there and have a hard night, people say well maybe you’re not as good as what you thought you were. For me it’s just really staying focused. Doing what I do. I believe if I do what I do I can put on a good show,” he said.
He boxed four times last year, most notably outclassing Jesse Hernandez on a Showtime broadcast in America. “That night I believe I made a bit of statement,” Ward said. “I think they expected me to get over there and then to give me a bit of a beatdown. But I don’t think they’d done their research properly. I’m a lot better in the ring probably than what I look. I think he got a shock that night. I’m learning and growing all the time.
“He was favourite at the time as well, to go out there and do the job I done on him, I think that really set a statement out there. That was a fantastic experience really and hopefully more opportunities like that come up.”
He is looking to close in on a world title shot. “I’m ranked quite highly by [the WBO at number three] but I’m also ranked by the WBC,” he said. “I’m closer to the WBO but if opportunities come up for any of the others, I’ll be more than happy to take them. They’ve got some good champions there. I’d like to fight any of them. I believe I’m ready now and I believe I’m the best one there.”
He had been looking for the Emanuel Navarrete fight but the Mexican, after a dominant run at super-bantam has moved up to featherweight. Angelo Leo now holds the WBO belt. “He’s a good fighter but he’s nothing special. Now MJ’s a good fighter, I like him [Murodjon Akhmadaliev, the unified IBF and WBA super-bantamweight champion]. I could be fighting him potentially that would be fantastic,” Ward said. “We welcome them all with open arms.
“I’ll be looking forward to chasing them down in 2021.”