The three-time European Elite champion and gold favourite was beaten on a controversial split decision by German light-heavy Abu Lubdeh Abdulrahman – who had Ward’s mentor Eddie Bolger in the corner.
The Olympic medal hope fought largely in first gear and landed the majority of cleaner shots as well as dictating the pace of his three rounder against Abdulrahman but the judges leaned toward the German – meaning the two time Chemistry Cup gold medal winner will have to settle for bronze.
The verdict was met with incredulity.
Joe Ward loses split decision – to Germany – in Cologne World Cup of Boxing semi-final. Took the piss a bit and might've stepped on the gas a bit more, but clearly the superior technician by some distance and should've taken the decision IMO pic.twitter.com/eBfmh8wQb4
— Kevin Byrne (@KevByrneBox) April 12, 2019
However, Ireland still hold gold hopes as three fighters reached their respective finals and will fight for a top podium finish tomorrow.
Earlier, Belfast Carly McNaul and Michaela Walsh upgraded their guaranteed bronze medals to at least silver.
McNaul saw off highly rated Indian flyweight Pinki Raini on a split decision after a slugfest and Walsh followed that with a unanimous verdict win over Romanian feather Lenuta Lacramioara.
McNaul, who has won three fights in three days so far, is back in action for gold versus Armenia’s Anush Grigoryan tomorrow and two-time Commonwealth finalist Walsh meets India’s Sa Sakshi for the 57kg title.
Both women are the first Irish female boxers to medal at the Chemistry Cup, which has since been rebranded as the World Cup and moved from Halle to Cologne for the 45th edition of the tournament.
Dublin heavyweight Tony Browne joined the pair in Saturday’s finals day as he unanimously beat Brandon Rees, the only Australian in the competition.
The St Michael’s BC man, on his first trip away with the Irish Elite team, will now meet Russiam Muslim Gadzhimagomedov, who Ward beat in the 2017 light heavy European final, for gold tomorrow.
The 2019 World Cup marks the first time that Irish boxing – which won its first medal (silver) at the tournament in 1992 courtesy of Olympic finalist Wayne McCullough – has three boxers in the finals.
Chemistry Cup (World Cup) Cologne, Germany
51kg Carly McNaul (Ireland) v Anush Grigoryan (Armenia)
57kg Michaela Walsh (Ireland) v Sa Sakshi (India)
91kg Tony Browne (Ireland) v Muslim Gadzhimagomedov (Russia)
51kg Carly McNaul (Ireland) beat Pinki Rani (India) 3-2
57kg Michaela Walsh (Ireland) beat Lenuta Lacramioara (Romania) 5-0
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) lost to Abu-Lubdeh Abdulrahman (Germany) 2-3
91kg Anthony Browne (Ireland) beat Brandon Ress (Australia) 5-0
51kg Carly McNaul (Ireland) beat Mungustsetseg Enkhjargal (Mongolia) 5-0
57kg Michaela Walsh (Ireland) beat Delgerkhnga Khongorzul (Mongolia) 5-0
57kg Kurt Walker (Ireland) lost to Albert Batyrgaziev (Russia) 0-5
69kg Christina Desmond (Ireland) lost to Liu Yang (China) 0-5
69kg Grainne Walsh (Ireland) lost to Nadine Apetz (Germany) 2-3
75kg Emmet Brennan (Ireland) lost to Gleb Bakshi (Russia) 0-5
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) beat Jilei Zhang (China) 5-0
91kg Anthony Browne (Ireland) beat Zhiabao Wang (China) RET2
56kg Kurt Walker (Ireland) beat Eric Petrosyan (Armenia) 5-0
51kg Carly McNaul (Ireland) beat Angelika Krysztoforska (Poland) 5-0
63kg Wayne Kelly (Ireland) lost to Jorge Moiran (Cuba) 2-3
63kg James McGivern (Ireland) lost to Enrico La Cruz (Netherlands) 0-5
69kg Kieran Molloy (Ireland) lost to Otgonbaatar Bymba (Mongolia) 0-4
91kg+ Dean Gardiner (Ireland) lost to Sergei Egorov (Russia) 2-3
52kg Brendan Irvine (Ireland) lost to Galai Yafai (England) 0-5
75kg Emmet Brennan (Ireland) beat Rafael Perczynski (Poland) 5-0
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) beat Piotr Sczukowski (Poland) 5-0
51kg Carly McNaul (Holy Family) (Silver, at least)
57kg Michaela Walsh (Monkstown) (Silver, at least)
69kg Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan’s)
69kg Grainne Walsh (Spartacus)
52kg Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s)
57kg Kurt Walker (Canal)
63kg James McGivern (St Georges)
63kg Wayne Kelly (Portlaoise)
69kg Kieran Molloy (Oughterard)
75kg Emmet Brennan (Glasnevin)
81kg Joe Ward (Spartacus) (Bronze)
91kg Tony Browne (St Michael’s) (Silver, at least)
91kg+ Dean Gardiner (Clonmel)
Team Manager: Bernard Dunne
Coaches: Zuar Antia, John Conlan, Damian Kennedy
Physiotherapist: Muireann Harte
Physiologist: Damain Martin