His coaches did not go so far as to describe Joe Ward as an ‘enigma’, but they suggested that the mercurial prodigy provided glimpses of his best and worst traits in his first outing at the World Championships in Doha.
The Moate light-heavyweight is now potentially two wins away from Olympic qualification, meaning he must improve on the bronze medal he claimed at the last Wolds in 2013.
After dominating the first two rounds of his bout against Oleksandr Kyyzhniak, knocking the Ukrainian’s gumshield out of his mouth in the second, Ward seemed to ease up in the final stanza and took a number of shots when losing the round, but still won the fight 29-28 on all three cards.
When questioned afterwards as to whether it was a deliberate tactic to preserve energy for his second bout in 24 hours today – after waiting four long days of competition for his opener – Ward dismissed the theory.
“Not really, I just knew I was ahead and I kind of took my foot off the gas and when you do, it’s very hard to turn it back on,’ said the 21-year-old before adding with a laugh: “Maybe I’ll be a bit more focused from now for the whole three rounds!”
Head coach Billy Walsh reckoned the idea that Ward is sometimes too relaxed or inclined to ‘preserve energy’ was bang on the money, however, ahead of a rematch tonight with Belarusian Belarusian Mikhail Dauhaliavets, who he defeated en route to European gold last summer.
“He’s inclined to do that,” said Walsh. “He may not say it, but he’s inclined to do that.” Brendan Irvine and Michael O’Reilly are again in action today, with both men also seeking a path to Olympic qualification.
O’Reilly faces a massive challenge against world middleweight champion Zhanubek Alimhanuly, who defeated Jason Quigley in the 2013 final.
“It’s very exciting and I’m looking forward to getting in there,” said O’Reilly. “With every fight I’m getting better.” Irvine, meanwhile, must overcome Cuban light-flyweight Joahnys Argilagos, who the 19-year-old beat in a youth competition last year and he must reach the final to have a potential shot at Rio.
Finally, Belfast bantamweight Michael Conlan has to see off Tayfur Aliyev of Azerbaijan in the last eight if he is to keep his dream of a World title alive. The Irish team captain at least has the reassurance that his Olympic spot is already secure.
Fellow Belfast fighter Seán McComb is less fortunate, however, as he exited the tournament yesterday following a questionable split-decision loss to his old rival Albert Selimov, the Azeri No 3 seed. “If I had’ve got that deicison today, they [the Azeris] wouldn’t have even argued it. He’s a big name so you have to beat that name alone,” said McComb.
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