Hat-trick hero Ward courted by pro game

Newly crowned European Elite champion Joe Ward is being targeted by pro promoters in the countdown to the World Elite Championships which begin in Hamburg, Germany, on August 25.

Ward claimed his third European gold medal in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, beating Russia’s Muslim Gadzhimagomedov on a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28) at the Lokomotiv Sports Palace.

An offer is on the table for the three-time European Elite champion and World Elite silver and bronze medallist to switch to the professional ranks.

He’s currently on €40,000 a year in funding. The 23-year-old is not looking for a king’s ransom to remain in the amateur ranks, but he does want financial security. It’s understood he’s looking for a contract up to Tokyo 2020.

“The way I look at it now is that I have to go home and make the right decision. I’m going to have to do what’s best for myself and best for my family. At the end of the day, I need security,” said the Rio Olympian and ex-World Youth and Junior champion.

Irish boxing has won 14 European Elite gold medals since 2005, courtesy of Katie Taylor, who has claimed six, Paddy Barnes, John Joe Nevin, Jason Quigley, Ray Moylette, Michael Conlan and Ward’s hat-trick.

However, Taylor, Barnes, Moylette, Quigley, Nevin, and Conlan have all turned pro, and Ward is the only European champion to remain in the amateur code and is consistently helping Irish boxing hit their key performance targets.

He added: “We have to sit down first and come up with a plan. There’s a lot of people putting a lot of pressure on me to turn professional.

“I have to sit down with the Irish Sports Council (Sport Ireland) and Bernard (Bernard Dunne, IABA High-Performance Director) and see where we go.”

Meanwhile, Ireland, which has never been outside the top five in the medals table in the four Europeans prior to Kharkiv, finished in fourth sport in the medals table at the weekend, courtesy of Ward and bronze medals from Brendan Irvine and Kurt Walker.

That trio and Sean McComb also qualified for the World Championships.

The Ukraine was the first major outing for new IABA High-Performance Director Dunne and the ex-WBA world champion was obviously proud of Team Ireland’s performance at the 42nd edition of the tournament.

“I came out here to access the health of our team and how it compared against international competition. From that point of view the objective was achieved, but to actually have some success to go along with that was fantastic,” he said.

“Great start for myself and Zaur (Zaur Antia, Irish head coach) and to watch Zaur and his team go to work was fantastic. It’s a young team. It needs time to settle in and we will hopefully achieve success in the future.

“The world championships will follow quickly after this. The guys will go home and have a break, a well-deserved break. The whole team performed well. From that point of view, we’re very happy.”

Meanwhile, unbeaten Mayo lightweight Ray Moylette, who won double European gold with Ward in 2011, notched his fifth professional win on points over Nigeria’s Innocent Anyanwu at Dublin’s National Stadium on Saturday night.

Paddy McDonagh upset Steve Collins Jnr and Luke Keller beat Darren Cruise for the vacant Irish light-heavy and middle titles on the Red Corner card at the home of Irish boxing.

It was Collins’ first defeat as a professional.


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