Ward strikes gold to stoke speculation over future
Joe Ward has already been installed as a favourite to win a gold medal at the World Championships in Germany but whether he wears the Irish light-heavy vest in Hamburg in August remains to be seen.
Ward claimed his third European gold medal by beating Russia's Muslim Gadzhimagomedov on a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28) at the Lokomotiv Sports Palace in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday.
That prompted fresh speculation about his future, with the Westmeath southpaw still very much a target of pro promoters.
Ward currently receives funding of €40,000 (£35,206) a year from Sport Ireland. And, while the 23-year-old is not looking for a king's ransom to remain in the amateur ranks, he does want financial security. It's understood he's looking for a new contract to take him up to Tokyo 2020.
"The way I look at it is that I have to go home and make the right decision. I'm going to have to do what's best for myself and my family. At the end of the day I need security," said the Rio Olympian.
Irish boxing has won 14 European Elite gold medals since 2005, courtesy of Katie Taylor, who has claimed six, Paddy Barnes, John Joe Nevin, Jason Quigley, Ray Moylette, Michael Conlan and Ward's hat-trick.
Taylor, Barnes, Moylette, Quigley, Nevin and Conlan have all turned pro, leaving Ward Ireland's only European champion to remain in the amateur code.
Ireland finished fourth in the European medals table courtesy of Ward's gold and the bronze medals won by Brendan Irvine and Kurt Walker.
Meanwhile, unbeaten Mayo lightweight Ray Moylette notched his fifth pro win with a points decision over Nigeria's Innocent Anyanwu at the National Stadium. Paddy McDonagh beat Steve Collins Jnr and Luke Keeler beat Darren Cruise for the vacant Irish light-heavy and middle titles.