Letterkenny is the next stop along the journey toward the top of the world according to Joe Ward and Saturday night is a big step toward him stamping his authority on the light heavyweight division.
As one of the greatest amateurs of his era, the Westmeath southpaw turned over with high expectations. However, he has struggled to find real momentum without the vest.
A freak injury leading to defeat on his Madison Square Garden-hosted debut seems to have played a role in that but the search for some career-enhancing spotlight, which has taken him to America, Canada, Mexico and even Puerto Rico, has yet to work.
That’s where Letterkenny and Donegal come in. Ward believes the kind of momentum he has been searching the world for has been waiting for him at home.
The Jimmy Payne trained 30-year-old has been eyeing up the budding British scene and feels a home base can help him force fights with the likes of European light heavyweight champ Dan Azeez, IBO world light heavyweight title holder Lyndon Arthur, fellow former amateur standout Joshua Buatsi and co.
“It was always my dream to come back and fight in Ireland. It’s home. This is where it all happened for me.
“To be able to headline my homecoming is very special. I’m looking forward to building momentum from here on in. I got an unfortunate injury but I’m back now and I’m ready for the big tests ahead.
“I want to fight big domestic fights. I know what level I’m at. I need to build momentum now and put myself in a situation where these fights will happen.”
The Lou DiBella mentored fighter’s professional Irish debut plays out on top of a Rumble in the Hills card on Saturday night. The three-time European and two-time World Championships medal winner takes on Ghana’s Prince Oko Nartey at the Aura Leisure Centre and is confident of victory.
Indeed, he believes he is capable of defeating the best in the world at the weight.
“This is a stepping stone for me to get to the best light heavy in the world,” Ward said ahead of his meeting with Nartey on the Elite Sheer show.
“There are levels in this game. I believe that I am levels ahead. I believe that I am ready now and hopefully, after this fight that big fights will happen for me – after this, I want to fight for belts.”