Joe Ward looking to take next step towards Rio 2016

Joe Ward, in action tonight
Joe Ward, in action tonight

Ireland’s Joe Ward aims to take one step closer to qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio when he boxes in the new AIBA Pro Boxing series in the Bulgarian capital Sofia tonight.

The former European champion and World bronze medallist weighted in at 81kg for the clash against French professional boxer Mathieu Bauderlique in what is effectively an Olympic semi-final qualifier.

Twenty five year old Baudique, who weighed in at 79.4kg, is unbeaten in the professional ranks with nine wins under his belt.

Under the terms of the new APB series, professional boxers who have fought less than 15 times are eligible to challenge for a place in the Olympics.

Twenty one year old Ward, who was desperately unlucky not to qualify for the London Olympics, lost his first fight in the APB series but then won three on the spin to reach the semi-finals.

The contest will be over eight three minute rounds which ought to favour Baudique but Ward has tailored his training to cope with these longer contests.

The winner will meet either Bulgaria’s Spas Genov or Kennedy St Pierre of Mauritius for a place at the Rio Games and a spot in the 2015 APB light heavyweight final.

There was disappointment for Ireland when Ward’s cousin David Oliver Joyce lost in the lightweight semi-final on a unanimous but controversial 3-0 decision to the local favourite in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan last weekend.

However, on form Ward is capable of advancing.