Michael Conlan and Ken Egan back Joe Ward to clinch World final spot

Former World champion Michael Conlan and Olympic silver medallist Ken Egan are backing their ex-Irish team-mate Joe Ward to reach back-to-back World Elite light-heavy finals in Hamburg, Germany, tonight.

Michael Conlan and Ken Egan back Joe Ward to clinch World final spot

Ward meets Uzbekistan’s Olympic finalist Bektimer Melikuziev in an all southpaw last-four showdown, while Cuba’s current Olympic and World champion Julio de la Cruz faces Ecuador’s Carlos Mina in the corresponding semi-final.

Ward was beaten in the 2015 World final by La Cruz in Doha, Qatar, where Conlan became the first Irish male boxer to win World Elite gold.

The Belfast bantam, who turned pro after the Rio 2016 Olympics believes the Westmeath fighter can go one better in Hamburg. The finals will be decided tomorrow.

“Best wishes to Joe. He’s got the silver and bronze already. He’s got all the talent in the world and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t do it,” said Conlan, who will have his fourth pro fight in Arizona on September 22.

Melikuziev reached the Rio 2016 middleweight final, but he’s since moved up 6kg to light-heavy.

Egan, who made a similar move in his career, reckons it can take up to two years to adjust.

“Joe looks like he’s on top form. Looking at him in his last two fights, he’s barely got out of second gear yet. It just shows you the talent he has, it’s ridiculous,” he said.

“He is confident because of his preparation. He’s done it right this time. He’s not cutting weight. He’s hovering around 83kg, 84kg and coming down to the 81kg mark [light-heavy limit].

“That helps an athlete an awful lot. When they’re confident of making the weight with ease they just concentrate on the fight and that’s great. He’s been walking around like he’s running the show, and he is. It’s the Joe show and he has the medals to prove it. The only thing is this little Uzbek standing in his way of another World final.

“It took me [moving up to light-heavy] a year-and-a-half, two years. It’s only a year since Rio, and he’s (Melikuziev) not even that big. Maybe he was pushed up to light-heavy.

“Joe can adapt. It’s over three rounds. That’s what Joe’s comfortable in. He has the distance, great feel of the game and great timing.He should get to another final without any hassle.“

World Elite Championships Hamburg, Germany, September 1:

Light-heavyweight semi-finals, Joe Ward (Ireland) v Bektimer Melikuziev (Uzbekistan) and Julio de la Cruz (Cuba) v Carlos Mina (Ecuador)

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