Just three months ago, Stuart "Stuey" Hall (16-2-1, 7 KO) won the vacant IBF bantamweight title via unanimous decision over Vusi Malinga. Hall is not resting on his laurels.
He's jumping back in the ring to take on challenger Martin Ward (18-2, 4 KO) in Hall's first defense. The bout will take place on Saturday from Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, Tyne and Wear.
This fight has a bit of geographical significance. It marks the first time two fighters from northeast England are clashing for a world title, per Hall's promoter, Dennis Hobson, who spoke with Ryan Songalia of The Ring.
In the same article, Hobson provided more region-specific details about the potential rivalry: "Martin Ward, he's a traveler so I think there's a bit of needle between them. I think the press conferences and face-offs should be quite interesting. I think it's going to generate a lot of interest."
Though Hall is the champion and the favorite, per Oddschecker, Ward refuses to accept his underdog status.
The 27-year-old told Joe Townsend of BBC Sport, "Go and speak to people that really know boxing and ask who is the underdog for this fight. Sixty percent would say it's Stuie, there's no way I'm the underdog."
Apparently, the group of people Ward is referring to has nothing to do with the official oddsmakers.
In any case, he could still come away victorious Saturday night. Here's how you can watch the clash.
When: Saturday, March 29 at 2 p.m. ET
Where: Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
TV: Box Nation
Live Stream: LiveSport.TV
The Book on Hall
If you've ever played or seen the video game series Hitman, you already know where I'm going with my next reference.
Hall looks like he could play the live-action version of Agent 47, the assassin from the virtual storyline.
It might be an apt comparison if Hall had more power. Though he doesn't possess much pop, Hall is a tough and scrappy competitor. He pushes forward like a fighter with a bigger punch than he has, but his ability to absorb shots and counter is what makes him dangerous.
In the fight with Malinga, Hall's energy and constant pressure proved to be too much. He easily won a decision by holding at least a five-point advantage on each judge's scorecard.
Malinga tried to mix it up with Hall, but the champion will likely be facing a different style against Ward.
The Book on Ward
The challenger is convinced that his elusive style and southpaw stance will give Hall fits. He told Glynn Evans, via BoxRec News:
Stuey showed in his losses against Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins that he struggles to cope with good, mobile boxers. He struggles with what I’m good at and, if I stick to my boxing, I’m going to give him a hard night at the very least. I’m not here to take part, I’m here to win. If I didn’t think I was capable, I wouldn’t bother turning up.
There is some truth to that. Hall did lose pretty clear decisions to those fighters, and both of them are noted for their mobility and boxing acumen. Malinga has the tools to fight that way, but he may have thought he wouldn't get the nod from the judges if he boxed and moved.
The fight was held in Yorkshire, and Hall was the clear hometown favorite.
This bout is different. Both men are local fighters, and that could give Ward the freedom to fight his preferred style. Will that be Hall's undoing?
Ward is correct. Hall does struggle with mobile fighters who won't engage him in brawls. By moving and changing angles, the southpaw will be able to frustrate Hall.
Ward has perhaps even less power than Hall, so he won't be looking to land one big shot. Instead, he'll likely be prepared to fight the full 12 rounds, employing the mobility that is likely to cause Hall issues.
This bout will have its share of solid exchanges, but most of it should feature Ward beating Hall to the punch and staying just out of range of the champion's counter-attempts.
It will be a short-lived reign for Hall as champion. Ward will win a unanimous decision to become champion.
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