A team of English boxers are gearing up to battle the might of America’s amateurs in the pugilism capital of the country – Bethnal Green’s York Hall.
Repton featherweight Martin Ward, fresh from his European Junior Championships win in August, is preparing to fight a New Jersey native, with his coach declaring: “I think he will beat anybody.”
Tony Burns, who has been head coach at the famous Tower Hamlets club for a staggering 42 years, stoked up the trans-Atlantic rivalry and backed his 18-year-old charge to beat opponent Ricky Edwards easily on Sunday.
“The Americans are not that good lately,” Burns said. “They’ve got two or three kids who are alright but they’re not what they used to be.”
“Ward is European Junior Champion and just been named boxer of the tournament at a more recent event; I’m very confident with him.”
Ward will head into the intercontinental clash alongside amateur boxers from Liverpool, Nottingham, and Manchester as well as other parts of London. The team of nine, which includes two female fighters, will face off against brawlers from all over the United States.
Despite the prestige of this weekend’s contest, Burns reckons it is just the latest step on the teenager’s road to London 2012.
“He is one of three or four of our kids who are heading for the London Olympics,” Burns said. “He’s got a really good chance.”
“Britain took him to watch the Olympics in Beijing last year; he’s such a good prospect they just sent him to have a look.”
Ward won the European crown three months ago with an outstanding display in Szczecin, Poland, culminating in a 4-0 defeat of Turkey’s Bunyamin Aydin in the final. The East End boxer first came to prominence with a Golden Gloves National Championship win in 2006 and then claimed Cadet World Championship bronze a year later.
Described as “incomparable”, York Hall was recently named by Boxing News as the sixth best boxing venue in the world, ranking alongside world-famous arenas Caesars Palace and Madison Square Garden. New WBA heavyweight champion David Haye made his professional debut there in 2002, beating Briton Tony Booth, and also defended his European cruiserweight belt against Giacobbe Fragomeni at the 1,200-capacity building in 2006.
York Hall’s doors will open at 1pm on Sunday for a 2pm start. Tickets, priced £15 for ringside and £10 for balcony, are available from abae.co.uk.