Steven Ward [13(4)-1(1)] says he is smart enough to know he faces a ‘massive’ challenge this weekend.
Ward has agreed to take on Kazakh ‘phenom’ Kamshybek Kunkabayev [3(3)-0] in Kazakhstan in his first pro outing in over a year.
Kunkabayev is a two-time World Amateur Championship silver medalist, won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics – and hasn’t looked too bad as a pro. The skilled and powerful operator has been just as dominant since entering the paid ranks, picking up a TKO win over 20-1 opponent Issa Akberbayev in his debut, before becoming the first man to stop Serhiy Radchenko in December. He followed those wins up with a stoppage win of the then 23-1 Server Emurlaev in just his third fight.
It looks a daunting prospect for the popular Belfast fighter and he admits he knows the challenge that awaits.
However, it’s a tough test the 31-year-old is excited to try and overcome.
“I am not stupid, this is a big fight,” he said.
“We are going to Kazakhstan and fighting this fella in his back garden,” he told Belfast Live. “But I love stuff like this. I know it’s a hard ask, but I am bang up for it.”
‘The Quiet Man’ is taking a roll dice approach to the fight knowing if he can change his career if he rolls a seven.
“It is a massive challenge, but to use Tyrone McKenna’s phrase, I am rolling the dice. I am under no illusions. Sometimes you have to give it a go, and I know it’s a fight I can win. I am bang up for it.
“I think the bigger the challenge, the better Steven Ward you will see. I don’t feel any pressure going into this fight.
“Kunkabayev is world medallist, Olympic bronze medallist, one of the top amateurs. I just feel I have no pressure and I just need to perform.
“Beating him will be a statement win. It would be massive. It is a big ask, but beating him will catapult me to where I want to be.
“It would be a massive scalp and doors would open for me.”
Saturday’s fight was initially meant to take place in February but was cancelled as were two proposed British title eliminators with Mikael Lawal.
The Jamie Moore trained fighter reveals injuries have punctuated his year and he suffered due to his eagerness to compete.
“I have had to pull out of a few fights this year. I had a couple of health issues I was dealing with, and I was rushing back to the gym too quickly,” he added.
“Sometimes being dedicated can be your downfall, and I think it was. I was trying to go back too early and my body needed time to recover.
“The body broke down a wee bit. As soon as I started feeling half decent I went back to the gym. I think I went on three camps to Manchester, and Jamie [Moore, coach] sent me back all three times.
“I was feeling better, and I was supposed to fight Mikael Lawal. I was feeling good and healthy and I was in the gym training.
“But the fight was just three weeks away, and it wasn’t enough time for me to be completely healthy. So I pulled out of it.”