Ward to battle Britton in return to Madison Square Garden
New York’s Madison Square Garden, the most famous arena in world boxing, is almost becoming a home venue for Joe Ward, who is set to step into the ring there for the third time in his young professional career on Saturday week.
The 28-year-old Moate man will take on Britton Norwood, an American with a record of ten wins, three defeats and one draw (seven KO's), at the Manhattan venue on December 11.
The fight will be on the undercard of a Sky Sports-televised bill headed by Ukraine’s Vasiliy Lomachenko, long regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound operators in the sport.
The December 11 show comes exactly a month after Ward’s last outing, in which he won every round of a six-rounder against Brazilian Leandro Silva in Long Island, New York.
Long Island was the home of Ward’s late manager, Joe Winters, who sadly died from Covid-19 in January. Mr Winters’ son, Patrick, is now managing the local man.
"It was brilliant to get fighting in Long Island, and a lot of people came out to see me," Ward told the Westmeath Independent.
"The venue where the fight took place, The Paramount, has a good atmosphere. It’s kind of similar to the York Hall (in London), with people being close to the ring, and everybody in the place was calling my name and singing songs, so I was delighted with that."
The fight was Ward’s third of the year, all of which have been unanimous points victories over six rounds. He tried to force a stoppage against Silva, but the 36-year-old demonstrated his toughness by making it to the final bell.
"I hit him with really good combinations that would have taken down a lot of other guys but he weathered the storm really well," explained Ward.
"He was a very tough and durable guy who basically knew how to last and go the distance. He never caused me any problems, as regards offence by him, but he showed endurance in the way he took the punches.
"I hurt him numerous times but he used to be a UFC fighter, an MMA fighter, and he had that kind of toughness about him. He was built in such a way that he was steady on his feet," he continued.
Having stayed on in New York to continue his training with his coaches Jimmy Payne and former world champion Joey Gamache, Ward is now focused on putting on another good performance in the Big Apple next week.
His ill-fated professional debut, in which he dislocated his knee, took place in the main Madison Square Garden arena in October 2019, and he recorded a points win against Tory Williams in the Theater, a smaller venue which is attached to the Garden, in August of this year.
He is now returning to the main Garden arena, which hosted such landmark fights as the first two meetings between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
"A lot of people dream of getting the opportunity to fight in MSG - we all know the history of it on the boxing side of things - and for me it’s now going to be my third time fighting there," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to it, and I’m fully focused on putting on a great show."
While spending time away from his young family in Moate hasn’t been easy, the father-of-three said sacrifices are necessary if he’s to achieve his dream of becoming a world champion.
"I know that the best place to be is here (in the US) because it’s where you get the quality sparring and the expertise of the people that are around you. That’s really important.
"For me, it's about fulfilling my potential and following my dream which is to become a champion. Without putting the effort in, and making sacrifices in life, you’re not going to achieve too much."
After being out of action for a time due to the knee injury in his pro debut, and then the disruption caused by the pandemic, he was happy to now be boxing again on a more regular basis.
"Staying active is massive," he emphasised. "Obviously I had a slow start to my career with the injury and then Covid. That was frustrating but I'm lucky enough to have a good, strong team around me.
"Patrick Winters has been doing an amazing job managing me since his father, God rest him, passed away. Lou DiBella, my promoter, has been getting me on all of these shows, so I'm lucky to have these guys as part of this journey, giving me these opportunities."
Britton Norwood, his opponent next week, is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, who is now based in Las Vegas. He has a respectable professional record and defeated the previously unbeaten Andrei Odintsov in his last bout, which was in Las Vegas in February 2020.
In a recent Instagram post, Norwood shared a picture of himself in the gym and said he was "getting ready for war at Madison Square Garden on December 11," adding, "proper preparation prevents poor performance!"
If Ward wins the battle with Britton he is hopeful of featuring on an Irish-themed boxing event in New York on the weekend of St Patrick’s Day (which falls on a Thursday next year).
"Fighting on St Paddy's weekend in New York would be massive for me. The opportunities are there - it's just about me keeping the ball rolling, keeping winning, staying injury-free, and the world is my oyster!" he added.