In the Light Heavyweight (81kg) category of the APB, AIBA Pro Boxing league, one of the top fighters to watch is young Irishman Joe Ward, the bronze medalist at the 2013 World Boxing Championships in Almaty, who says he is ready to ‘rock and roll’ when the competition comes around.
We caught up with the County Westmeath man who explained just why he is looking forward to the start of the competition.
Hi, Joe, so tell us – what most attracted you to APB?
I did very well in the World Series of Boxing (WSB). I liked it in WSB, the style of the longer rounds and way of operating without vests. It really attracted me because of the Olympic Games qualification, which was the main reason I was really interested because it’s something new, offering an Olympic Games spot, so it is going to be really interesting. The setup also is really exciting: being a professional as well as being able to represent your country at the Olympic Games.
Do you think the competition’s professional style will suit you?
Yes, definitely. I really like the longer rounds and that style of the fighting. I think I’m going to adapt really quickly. I’m really looking forward to it and I’m thankful that AIBA gave me the opportunity to be involved in APB.
How much of an incentive is qualifying for the Olympic Games for you?
It is huge. This is something I always dreamed of and it gives me an extra chance to qualify so it has really worked in my favor and the style of boxing, along with the availability of Olympic Games places is excellent.
Having come up through the weight categories in your career and won medals at Light Middleweight, Middleweight and Light Heavyweight, do you feel at home now at 81kg?
I feel like now I’m really developing into this weight. In the last couple of years I have maintained a non-fighting weight of around 82-82kg but I have grown into the Light Heavyweight category and I’m really big for the weight. I have been holding off for a number of years to move up but now I am much stronger as a boxer at this weight.
How is your preparation for the APB tournament going?
Training is going really well. I started back in the gym a number of weeks ago to prepare really for the APB. I always knew I was going to sign to compete in the tournament so I wanted to get everything right. My preparation is going very well and I’m ready to go. I just want to get in the ring and get the show on the road.
Joining Ward amongst the ranks are explosive undefeated Bulgarian pro Spas Genov, rock-solid Algerian All-Africa games gold medalist Abdelhafid Benchabla and heavy-handed London 2012 Olympian Ehsan Rouzbahani of Iran.
Also in the mix is another undefeated pro, the strapping southpaw figure of multiple French national champion Mathieu Bauderlique and the 2013 European champion, the robustly built Russian Nikita Ivanov. Uzbek standout and 2013 Asian Boxing Championships gold medalist Oybek Mamazulunov brings his considerable international pedigree into the frame and
Kazakhstan’s 2012 Olympic Games silver medalist Adilbek Niyazymbetov completes a pack of talented and hungry fighters aiming big in APB and hoping to claim a spot at Rio 2016.