Khan's conqueror Ward seeks to rebuild career
As Amir Khan gets ready for a world title challenge, Bobby Ward, the last Englishman to beat him, is preparing for his first professional fight
By LEN WHALEY
As Amir Khan gets ready for a world title challenge on a big-money promotion in London later this month, Bobby Ward, the last Englishman to beat him, is preparing away from the spotlight for his first professional contest in Wigan next week.
Since their two schoolboy contests a decade ago, Bolton superstar Khan has gone on to become one of the biggest names in boxing, winning a string of amateur honours, highlighted by his Olympic Games silver medal.
He has subsequently had a much-publicised pro campaign and has lined up a world title bid against Andreas Kotelnik at the O2 Arena on June 27.
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Yet for Ward, who defeated Khan in a national final and also clinched further amateur honours at Repton and Dagenham BC, success did not follow in the senior ranks and the 22-year-old has been out of boxing for five years.
He left the sport to younger members of his family, with brothers John and Martin earning national success - the latter has already been named as a top prospect for London 2012.
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But Bobby has recently returned to the gym, working under trainer Tony Sims and preparing alongside unbeaten Commonwealth champion Darren Barker at the TBS Gym in Hainault.
Ward has already shed around two stone from his stocky frame during regular gym sessions and long runs through nearby Hainault Forest.
And he will complete a surprise return to the sport when he makes his pro debut as a lightweight at Wigan's Robin Park Centre on June 13.
Sims, who developed his own boxing career at East End clubs including Poplar and Stepney's St George's BC, admits he has been impressed by the effort that the fighter has been putting into his work.
"Bobby has clearly got his appetite for boxing back and he has been looking really sharp in the gym," Sims says.
The boxer recalls those clashes with Khan when the pair were both outstanding schoolboys.
"Our first meeting was in a club bout, I didn't know him and took it all too easy and lost the decision," he said.
"But when we fought our return later in a championship final, I was prepared for him and earned my revenge."
Ward has been impressed by Khan's outstanding progress since their clashes a decade ago, but he has now got the hunger for similar success.
He still has a long way to go before he can hope to match the achievements of the opponent he once conquered, but Ward is ready to write a new chapter in his own glove story.