Joe Ward guaranteed World Elite medal in Hamburg
JOE WARD'S third successive win over Belarusian light-heavy Mikhail Dauhaliavets earned the Westmeath southpaw a third World Elite medal in Hamburg, Germany last night.
The 23-year-old Irish captain, the number three seed, comfortably beat Dauhaliavets on a unanimous decision – 30-27,30-27,30-27,30-27,30-26 – in a repeat of the 2015 World and European quarter-finals which Ward (pictured) also won.
“He's boxing beautifully and he's not finished yet,” said coach John Conlan, who is working Ireland's corner with head coach Zaur Antia and Dmitry Dimitruc.
“It was another top class performance from Joe against a dangerous opponent who never stopped coming forward throughout the entire fight. We're absolutely delighted for him.”
Ward, who claimed bronze and silver at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds, will meet Rio 2016 middleweight finalist Bektimer Melikuziev in the semi-finals on Friday looking to upgrade his guaranteed bronze to at least silver.
The Uzbek, the reigning Asian champion, who suffered a cut over his eye en route to a split decision over Kazakhstan's Yerik Alzhanov last evening, has moved up a notch to light-heavy.
The 2014 Olympic Youth champion, like Ward, claimed silver at the 2015 World Championships in Qatar after edging Ireland's Michael O'Reilly on a split verdict in the semis.
Ward, operating behind a ramrod right jab, dominated all three rounds against Dauhaliavets, who did tag the Irishman with a sweeping left in the second, but Ward never really had to move out of second gear, or so it appeared.
“It might look like that, but he is keeping total focus. He's sticking to his boxing and is totally concentrated. It was a phenomenal performance,” added Conlan.
Yesterday's verdict assured Ireland of a 20th medal at the men's and women's World Elite Championships since Tommy Corr claimed a first medal (bronze) in Munich in 1982.
Ward, appearing at his fourth successive Worlds, insists there's more to his light-heavy division in Hamburg than Cuba's Olympic champion Julio Da La Cruz, who beat him in the 2015 final and 2013 semi-final.
La Cruz, who is aiming for a fourth successive World title, also won last night and will meet Ecuador's Carlos Mina, who beat Ward at Rio 2016 and who has also beaten La Cruz in the past, in the corresponding semi-final.
“There are few good boxers in my weight. The Uzbek reached the Olympic final at middleweight in Rio and has moved up to light heavy and he's the number two seed here,” said Ward.
“It's all about how you perform on the day and staying focused on the job at hand. Forget about medals, forget about everything except your performance and tactics.”
So far Wicklow's Katie Taylor and Belfast's Michael Conlan are the only Irish boxers to take home World Elite gold. It's an exclusive Irish club that Ward will be aiming to join this weekend.