The Moate BC graduate this week confirmed he was ditching the vest and entering the pro ranks. The two time world silver medal winner has linked up with Time Square Boxing management and it’s said a number of big name promoters are currently seeking his signature.
His decision is a blow for the High Performance Unit and the IABA, indeed it hurts Ireland’s Tokyo 2020 chances.
Such is the talent of the 25-year-old he was all but seen as an Olympic medal cert and was a genuine gold hope.
However, by the time Toyko comes around Ward will be a pro and Team Ireland will hopefully have another light heavyweight representative at the Olympics.
Dunne, who has worked to fend off pro interest in Ward over the years, admits the news was disappointing. The former world champion and now High Performance Director admits the timing makes it a surprise and revealed he did all he could to persuade Ward to stay amateur.
“I have to say I am surprised, a wee bit disappointed just 12 months out from an Olympic Games,” said Dunne, when speaking to the Irish Times.
“I’m not sure who is advising him but it is a surprising decision. We’ve done all we can. I’ve met with Joe several times, I’ve spoken with him on the phone after the last number of weeks and we’ve tried all we can to keep him. But his decision – and we’ve got to respect it for him and his family – is to turn professional. Unfortunately it’s our loss and professional sports gain,” he adds before lamenting with regard as to exactly what has been lost to the amateur set up.
“There’s no doubting Joe is a special talent. He’s been a part of this program since he was 17 years of age and we’ve invested a lot of time and resources into him. Joe has performed exceptionally well at most major tournaments, European medals, World medals.”
Ward turns over with a glittering array of amateur medals and a brilliant CV. However, despite qualifying for Rio he has never secured an Olympic medal- and Dunne claims the High Performance Team were going all out to change that.
“The next step was Olympic medals and over the last two years since I’ve been here we were very focused on challenging Joe to perform to his potential.I’d a feeling that we were moving in the right direction. But when you have a talent like that professional sport will come calling. It has a lot more riches to offer, I suppose, than we do.”