The Moate light heavyweight dropped Cuban legend Julio Cesar La Cruz in the opening round of their Chemistry Cup semi-final clash in Halle before finishing strong in the third.
Alas, Ward was edged out 3-2 by the reigning Olympic and world champion for what was, technically, his fourth successive win over the Irishman – however, the chorus of boos which greeted the verdict told its own story.
There were also defeats for Conor Quinn, Kieran Molloy and George Bates, who had to settle for bronze at the prestigious tournament dubbed the Mini World Championships.
Quinn lost to Salanki Gaurov in the flyweight semi-final. The compact Indian, who beat Irish Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine in the Commonwealth final earlier this year, took a unanimous decision after a high-scoring and open three-rounder, his second win over Quinn in a matter of weeks following an international in Castlebar.
Molloy was beaten by Cuba’s London 2012 champion Roniel Iglesias after a hard-punching and close all-southpaw battle which was level after two rounds.
Bates lost to Cuba’s former World champion Laszlo Alvarez, who John Joe Nevin beat in the London 2012 semi-final, after a cagey three-rounder at the 45th edition of the tournament.
There was good news though for Dublin heavyweight Kirill Afanasev who advanced to Saturday’s final on a walkover and will meet Erislandy Savon, nephew of three-time Olympic champion Felix Savon, for 91kg gold.
45th Men’s Chemistry Cup Halle, Germany June 19/24
64kg Wayne Kelly (Ireland) beat Artur Badalian (Ukraine) 5-0
75kg Michael Nevin (Ireland) lost to Vikas Krishan (India) 0-5
60kg George Bates (Ireland) beat Artur Bril (Germany) 4-1
69kg Kieran Molloy (Ireland) beat Richard Meinecke (Germany) 5-0
56kg Kurt Walker (Ireland) beat Omar El Hag (Germany) 4-1
52kg Conor Quinn (Ireland) beat Umar Bajwa (Germany) 5-0
56kg Kurt Walker (Ireland) lost to Vasilii Vetkin (Russia) 1-4
60kg George Bates (Ireland) beat Lucas Bandi (Canada) 4-1
64kg Wayne Kelly (Ireland) lost to Kastriot Sopa (Germany) 2-3
69kg Kieran Molloy (Ireland) beat Thomas Zold (Slovakia) 5-0
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) beat Pavil Silygan (Russia) 4-1
91kg Kirill Afanasev (Ireland) beat Lucian Kohne (Germany) 5-0
91kg+ Dean Gardiner (Ireland) lost to Angel Gomez-Larduet (Cuba) 0-5
52kg Conor Quinn (Ireland) lost to Solanki Gaurov (India) 0-5
60kg George Bates (Ireland) lost to Lazaro Alvarez (Cuba) 0-5
69kg Kieran Molloy (Ireland) lost to Roniel Iglesias (Cuba) 0-5
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) lost to Julio La Cruz (Cuba) 2-3
91kg Kirill Afanasev (Ireland) beat David Michalek (Slovakia) W/O
91kg Kirill Afanasev (Ireland) v Erislandy Savon (Cuba)
52kg Conor Quinn (Clonard) (Bronze)
56kg Kurt Walker (Canal)
60kg George Bates (St Marys) (Bronze)
64kg Wayne Kelly (Portlaoise)
69kg Kieran Molloy (Oughterard) (Bronze)
75kg Michael Nevin (Portlaoise)
81kg Joe Ward (Sparticus) (Bronze)
91kg Kirill Afanasev (Smithfield) (Silver, at least)
91+kg Dean Gardiner (Clonmel)
Head coach: Zaur Antia
Coaches: Michael Carruth, Philip Keogh, Paul Thompson