Steven Ward will blast a warning to title rivals at Ulster Hall, says Moore
Top coach Jamie Moore believes Steven Ward is ready to show the Northern Ireland public he is coming of age as a professional fighter when he headlines at the Ulster Hall tomorrow night.
It may seem strange to suggest that a 29-year-old boxer has not quite matured but light-heavyweight Ward has had a slow burning three-year career, which last year threatened to ignite after a solid victory over Mexican Rolando Paredes but instead he has subsequently chopped down two ordinary journeymen.
Now he meets former British title challenger Liam Conroy in an intriguing 10-rounder.
Coach Moore has been honing Commonwealth Games silver medallist Ward's talent over the past 18 months, including witnessing him spar Conroy earlier this year, and is confident that the popular Monkstown man can now look ahead to enjoying a new momentum in his career.
"I've seen a great improvement in Stevie over the past nine months. When he first came to me he was still boxing the way he did as an amateur and to change a fighter and develop a fighter takes time, it doesn't happen overnight, but I have seen things starting to really click and this fight with Conroy has come at just the right time," said Moore, who also coaches former world champion Carl Frampton.
"Stevie's ring generalship has improved a lot - it's probably the stand-out aspect in recent months.
"He has always been very dedicated, he will do all that is asked of him but he has improved his defence and I was very impressed with the character he showed in that fight in Belfast with Paredes who made it very tough for him.
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"Those are the boxes that need to be ticked as you move along the ladder and he has done that, so that's why this fight is ideal at this point in his career," Moore added.
Having witnessed Ward and Conroy spar, Moore says the Ulster Hall fans can expect value for money when the two men come together tomorrow night.
"I know Liam well and I'm a long-time friend of his coach so there's no bad blood leading up to this fight - we have been very careful about being respectful but out of the 100-odd rounds they have sparred you would have paid good money to have seen around 70 of them and that's why I believe the fans are in for a very good fight," added Moore.
"There's not going to be any feeling out period, they'll go right at it from the opening bell. They'll shake hands before the fight, have a good scrap and shake hands at the end - and that's how it should be.
"I'm sure that the Belfast fans will make themselves heard and that will only inspire Stevie.
"The Ulster Hall is a great stage for him, the fans know their boxing and this is a big chance for him to show that he can move on for some very big fights."
Ward will be seeking to pick up the WBO European title, while the supporting bill features Belfast light-welterweight Tyrone McKenna in a 10-rounder with Dubliner Darragh Foley.
● UNDEFEATED Belfast middleweight Alfredo Meli will face Germany's Araik Marutjan on the undercard of Michael Conlan's big clash with bitter rival Vladimir Nikitin on August 3 at Falls Park.
Meli said: "I believe I'm one of the most underrated middleweights out there and in facing another undefeated, highly-touted prospect in Marutjan I've got another chance to prove I'm on my way to the top.
"This is going to be a special night for Belfast and a special night for boxing."