Lewis Crocker must handle Conah Walker before setting his sights on Paddy Donovan all-Ireland battle

Steven Ward returns as ‘Rudy’ Farrell targets Irish title on Ulster Hall bill

Lewis Crocker celebrates his knockout win against Jose Felix in January (Mark Robinson/Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

LEWIS Crocker will fight England’s WBA number-five ranked contender Conah Walker in June before he can turn his sights onto an all-Ireland battle with Paddy Donovan.

Crocker (18-0) and Walker both starred in stoppage wins at the Ulster Hall in January with headline act ‘Croc’ knocking out Jose Felix spectacularly after Walker had dismantled Lloyd Germain on the undercard.

That win took Walker’s record to 13-2-1 while Crocker won the WBO Inter-Continental Welterweight belt. Limerick’s Donovan also appeared on the Belfast bill and his match-up with Crocker is expected to take place later this year.

WBO European Light Heavyweight champion Steven Ward is one of the front-runners for the Golden Contract tournament. Picture Mark Marlow.
Former WBO European Light Heavyweight champion Steven Ward returns to the ring on Saturday night

AFTER more than two years in the boxing wilderness, Steven Ward will return to action at the Ulster Hall on Saturday night.

The vastly-experienced former Irish amateur champion and Commonwealth Games finalist held the WBO European light-heavyweight belt during the first chapter of his professional career which ended in December 2021 when he lost a WBA World ‘Gold’ cruiserweight title challenge against Kamshybek Kunkabayev in Kazakhstan.

Since that loss ‘The Quiet Man’ of Irish boxing faded off the scene but he feels he has unfinished business and, at 32, is certainly young enough to enjoy the fighting swansong he is hoping for.

“It’s been a difficult couple of years but I just don’t feel like I’m done yet,” said Ward who returns against India’s Parminder Singh (4-4).

“I was still in the gym but I had a few fights that fell through and a few other things but I’m not content so I want to get back in and give it a go, give it a crack.”

His plan for Kunkabayev was to see out the first six rounds and then come on strong in the second half of the fight and it was working well until he was caught with an elbow and the fight was stopped for a cut after seven. After that loss he found opportunities hard to come by.

“I couldn’t get fights after that,” says Ward who will campaign at cruiserweight.

“I was waiting to hear about fights but they were falling through and things got difficult but I’m with Lee Eaton (manager) now and I’m expecting a good year. The whole kitchen sink will be thrown at it and if it doesn’t work out I’ll walk away happy, but I think it will.

“Light-heavyweight (79kg) killed me so I’m up at cruiserweight (91kg) from now on and I feel far, far better for it. Already I’m hearing whispers of a big fight next, all being well on Saturday night.

“I don’t want to be hanging about, I don’t want to be just making the numbers up, I’m genuinely in to go and do something and I think I can.”

He admits he was “pissed off all the time” as he kicked his heels on the sidelines waiting for a call from a promoter to tell him there was a fight lined up. A family man with four kids, he had to bide his time and combine going to the gym with working until his place on Saturday night’s Conlan Boxing bill was confirmed.

“I was up early in the morning and going to the gym and then I was away to work,” he explains.

“After work I was back in the gym and the kids were in bed by the time I got home. I’d go and spar but there were no fights. I got really pissed off with the sport and I’d blow hot and cold, but I kept showing up and I’m hoping, I’m praying that all that showing up finally pays off now.”

Featherweight: Kurt Walker (10-0) v James Beech Jnr (16-5)

Boxing Union of Ireland Celtic Super-Bantamweight title: Ruadhan Farrell (4-1-1) v Connor Kerr (3-0)

Cruiserweight: Steven Ward (13-2) v Parminder Singh (4-4)

Super-welterweight: Owen O’Neill (12-0) v Edgar Kemsky (3-7-1)

Super-welterweight: Glenn Byrne (2-0) v Martin Shaw (4-21-3)

Super-featherweight: JP O’Meara (2-0) Engel Gomez (8-26-3)

Super-welterweight: John Boyd (debut) v Allan White (0-5)

Featherweight: Gerard Hughes (4-0-1) v Luke Fash (3-101-3)

Rudy Farrell and Gerard Hughes fought out a draw at the SSE Arena
Rudy Farrell and Gerard Hughes fought out a draw at the SSE Arena

HE can count himself unlucky not to have won last time out but Ruadhan Farrell is someone who can take the rough with the smooth.

‘Rudy’ looked to have the better of it against Gerard Hughes in December last year and boos rang out at the SSE Arena when the all-Belfast battle was ruled a draw. However, the quality of Farrell’s work that night didn’t go unnoticed and on Saturday he fights Connor Kerr (3-0) for the Boxing Union of Ireland Celtic Super-Bantamweight title.

“All good, ready to rock, so excited, can’t wait,” said Farrell.

“It was a bad decision by the ref against Hughes but what’s done is done. It was a one-sided beat-down in my eyes and I would have given it 5-1 (over six rounds) or 4-2 if I was being nice. I didn’t get the decision but now look where I am – I’m co-main event at the Ulster Hall so everything worked out well.

“What happened the last time just drives me on and I’ve got a chance to fight for the title so it has added more fuel to my fire. My cousin (Mark McDonald) passed away before Christmas and he was one of my biggest fans. He died from cancer so this fight will be dedicated to the memory of him so I have my ‘Terminator’ head on for this.”

Unusually for a Belfast fighter, Farrell didn’t have a notable amateur career. He came up through the semi-pro system before he made his professional debut in 2022. He has an unorthodox style and carries power and intends to make the most of his untapped potential.

“It’s do or die for me now,” said the Terry Smith-trained fighter.

“I won’t be denied and I’ll be leaving the Ulster Hall as the BUI super-bantamweight champion. You can see by my record and my last fight that I am heavy-handed, I’m starting to sit down a lot on my punches and on Saturday I’ll be making a statement and putting my name up there as number one in Ireland.”