Moate’s Joe Ward landed his second silver World Championship medal last weekend after finishing runner-up to old nemesis Julio César La Cruz of Cuba in the light heavyweight final in Hamburg, Germany.
Ward reached the final after a tricky split decision victory over Uzbeki opponent, Bektemir Melikuziev, in what was an intense but often scrappy affair. He faced La Cruz in the final on Saturday evening (September 2 ), the man who had bested him in his two previous world title campaigns.
The contrasting style of the fighters was plain to see from the first bell, as Ward held his guard high, looked to dominate the centre of the ring, and to close down his Cuban opponent’s space. La Cruz bobbed and wove his way around the perimeter with his hands low, looking for opportunities to exercise his jab.
Ward had his opponent on the ground in the early stages of the round, but the referee correctly judged it as a slip. While the Moate man looked to close down the Cuban he struggled to get in close and was caught by some point-scoring jabs in the process.
The second round opened in the same vein as the first, with Ward taking charge of the centre of the ring. However, frustration appeared to creep in as the round progressed, with the Moate man dropping his hands in an effort to make the Cuban stand and fight, which he did.
La Cruz took control of the centre of the ring for a time and began to box more, but Ward still struggled to tag him enough with meaningful punches, and was caught with a nice one-two from the Cuban on one of the occasions that he managed to land a solid left shot of his own. Ward did manage to land a strong left in the last minute of the round, but it was not enough to trouble La Cruz.
Ward went after the Cuban in the final round, but was caught with some straight jabs on his way in. Failing to pin La Cruz down, Ward once again dropped his guard and invited the Cuban to trade. On the occasions that the Irish captain caught his opponent, he could not land enough point-scoring blows. The result was unanimous, with La Cruz winning on all five of the judges’ cards.
Speaking after the fight, Ward expressed his disappointment. However, he said he was happy with his overall performance in the competition, and with the fact that he has time on his side.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t win the gold,” he said. “I gave it the best shot in the final. He had his moments and I had my moments, I can’t complain about the result. All I can do is perform the best I can and the outcome takes care of itself. He (La Cruz ) is not getting younger. I’m improving all the time and when Tokyo 2020 comes around, I will be improving to beat him.”