Steven Ward: Pal Carl Frampton is inspiring me to hit heights
So often the testing ground to see whether or not the latest Northern Ireland prospect has the tools to move to the next level, the Ulster Hall tonight invites Steven Ward to prove his worth.
Liam Conroy will be in the opposite corner, a former British title challenger who at this point in unbeaten light-heavyweight Ward's development would appear to be the ideal test in their 10-rounder.
Based in Manchester with coach Jamie Moore, Ward trains alongside former world champion and friend Carl Frampton, who the Monkstown man insists has been an inspiration since he turned professional three years ago.
Now Ward finds himself in a similar situation as to when Frampton was coming through and headlining at the grand old venue - even if it has taken a little longer.
"Working alongside Carl, watching how he goes about training and the way he spars… it all rubs off on you and he shows you what is needed to make it in this sport," said Ward.
"There's a constant storehouse of energy around the place and even when we go back to the apartment and we're having a chat he is able to give me some really good nuggets of advice. Leading up to this fight we talked about some tactics, what he thinks would work well and make a difference and that was very positive.
"He reads a fight very well, he talks sense and he has proven in his own career that he has been able to adapt to dealing with different styles.
"We enjoy training, there's a good vibe in the gym but it's not all about having fun - we know when we have to flick the switch. We're very hungry fighters and feed off each other along with the other guys in the gym like Martin Murray and Rocky Fielding, who are world class."
With his wife Cathy due to give birth in September, Ward would be expected to suggest that another mouth to feed offers extra motivation but the 29-year-old discounts the suggestion.
He is equally straight talking when it comes to weighing up his desire for glory in the ring beyond the Ulster Hall stage.
"You want to give your kids a good life, they're the biggest part of my life but I'm doing this for selfish reasons too. I do it because I want to. I want to look myself in the mirror and know I gave everything," added Ward.
"I think the biggest reason I like boxing is because I'm the only one accountable. It's a sport where you can't fool yourself - you miss a day's training, you don't eat right and you get found out. The adrenaline rush is like no other sport. It is like a drug, the euphoria of victory is incredible and unless you've done it you can't understand."
Ward is expected to come through this solid test against Conroy and pick up the WBO European title but, more importantly, he seeks to put down a marker to the rest of the division in the UK.
"People will sit up and take notice of me after this fight, they'll become more aware of what I'm about and that I'm a force to be reckoned with," said Ward.
"I want to be moving up the ladder and Conroy is ranked above me in the British ratings, he has fought Joshua Buatsi for the British title so this is the biggest test of my career so far."
The undercard is led by Tyrone McKenna in a 10-rounder with Dubliner Darragh Foley, while entertaining welterweight Paddy Gallagher faces unbeaten Liam Wells of Essex. Caoimhin Agyarko, Lewis Crocker, Taylor McGoldrick and Owen O'Neill are also on the bill.