Ward aiming high as he prepares for life in professional ranks
On the canvas
Eight years ago, a 17-yearold Joe Ward (right) told me, "I'm ready to rock'n'roll."
Fresh from the Open Youth Championships, the big kid proceeded to bully Kenny Egan, flooring the Olympic silver medalist with a thunderous combination that helped clinch a first national senior title.
Afterwards the youngster said, "I went in there to fight. I knew my power would make a difference."
Joe's medal haul since has been staggering. Three European golds and a couple of World silver and a bronze are just a few of note.
Now Joe (25) is set to take on the world as a pro.
"It's been a long time coming," he says of the move. "It's a new chapter for me now. I always wanted to have the right team around me."
And some team it is.
Management will be taken care of by Joe Winters and Adam Glenn, whose Times Square Boxing Co has already co-opted DiBella Entertainment and Murphys Boxing as Joe's promoters.
With Joe's long-standing coach Jimmy Payne looking after their man in Ireland, Buddy McGirt, last seen in Dublin in Matthew Macklin's corner and currently training Russian light-heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, will coach Joe in New York.
In Dublin this week, the team were eager and flushed with excitement.
"We're looking forward to the journey together with everyone here focused on Joe becoming the best fighter that's ever come out of Ireland," enthused Joe Winters.
Harvard-educated lawyer Adam Glenn declared Joe "a future superstar of the sport".
"Thrilled to be working with Joe," Lou DiBella said. "He can be a world ranked light-heavyweight in two years. He can punch, he can fight and his pedigree as an amateur is impeccable."
Details of the Moate fighter's pro debut, a six-round fight, will be announced shortly.
"Not only does he have the ability to be a champion, he has the ability to be the face of boxing," gushed Lou. "To be something in the men's game like Katie Taylor is in the women's game."
Forget Love Island. This was Love Ireland as Joe's new crew pledged their allegiance to their new signing. And his country.
Maybe someone told them they were prising an Olympic gold medal away from this little Republic.
"I didn't pressure him to turn pro," said the outspoken Lou. "Look what happened to Michael Conlan in the Olympic Games. And the pro style which Joe clearly has, it's not exactly rewarded in the Olympics. Amateur boxing has been corrupt. We didn't even know six months ago that there would be boxing in the Olympics. And who's running amateur boxing right now?
"Think of what he's going to do for his country when he wins the world championship," added Winters.
Joe is well up for the new challenge. "There's room for improvement," he said. "I'm a fighter who can do five different styles. To become world champion I'll do whatever it takes to win. I have all the tools."