Excitement is building for the world’s oldest professional boxer as Mansfield’s Steve Ward aims to end his career in a blaze of glory by winning a world title on home soil on Saturday, July 15.
Ward, 60, who is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest competing boxer, will bow out with a tilt at the WBC Veteran Heavyweight Championship of the World at Mansfield Civic Centre.
His gruelling preperations have gone very well but, despite previous comebacks from retirement, Ward swears this will be his last fight.
It will also be his toughest as giant German opponent Andreus Sidon, who is taller and heavier than Ward, who usually fights at cruiserweight, has a superb record including wins over Danny Williams and Audley Harrison.
“It’s the first time this title ever been fought for so the fight will go into the history books as well,” said Ward, who has had to move up to the heavyweight division for this one.
“It is for boxers aged around 54 to 60, so as usual he’s on the bottom limit and I am on the top limit. I am 61 in August so I am just in the limit to do it.
“But this is definitely my last fight. I can’t fight after this. So I want to go out all guns blazing.
“It will be 12 three-minute rounds – 12 three minutes at 60 eh? But it’s got to be done because it’s a world title fight.
“To be honest I don’t think my body would take any more after this fight. I have really put myself through it for this fight.
“I have gone through blackout points and everything. I couldn’t physically do any more. So this is the one.
“I go into hospital a couple of weeks after the fight for an operation on my shoulder. It’s a problem with my rotator cuff. But that won’t hinder me in the fight. I am back firing on all four cylinders.
“The only reason I am having it done after the fight and not before is that it wouldn’t heal in time.”
Despite the height and weight difference, Ward continues to work on new tactics to try to nullify that difference.
“I’ve had to step up to the heavyweight mark and I am coming in around the 15st mark. So I will be giving 2st 8lbs away,” he said.
“But it’s 12 rounds and that’s a long time to haul 17st 8lbs around. I think my speed will probably be the telling point as I think he will get tired. I’m not saying I won’t but I hope he gets more tired quicker.
“I am 6ft so he’s got six inches on me too. It’s a proper Rocky v Drago fight. I look up at him and he is big. But that means he has got a big body to hit and I want to exploit that.
“The difference won’t hinder me as this guy, being as tall as he is, I am never going to out-jab him. Normally my jab is my big thing.
“This time I am going to have to fight a different fight to any I have ever done. I am going to have to go in close to him, put my head on his chest, stick to him like glue and keep punching with body work. We will see how tough his ribs are.
“That’s what it comes down to. I am training to non-stop punch for 36 minutes. I’m going to go, go, go like a clockwork rabbit.”
It has been an agonising wait for an opponent for Ward after two previous candidates pulled out for very different reasons.
“Firstly the American Mike Palmer, who took the Guinness world title away from me while I was out with a bad hand, it was all ready for us to fight, but he failed a medical.
“Apparently he’d got white blobs on the brain scan and if I’d have hit him I could have killed him. That has finished him altogether. He can’t fight any more.
“After that Virgil Hill, four-times world champion and a big name, agreed to come over and fight. We’d agreed on a price.
“Then all at once he said his wife had said he should be on more money than that and it went up by over £100,000. So he talked himself out of the fight.
“So I am now fighting a German international champion.”
Sidon’s record is certainly impressive.
“He is phenomenal,” said Ward. “He is 54 years old, 6ft 6ins, 17st 8lbs, and he has had 45 wins, 36 of them by way of knock-out.
“His last fight in November of last year, he beat the man who beat Mike Tyson – Danny Williams. He stopped him.
“He has also beaten Audley Harrison and has a good pedigree.
“But to be honest he is one hell of a nice guy. We speak and we get on all right.
“His words to me were – in the ring we will try to destroy each other and afterwards we will be the biggest friends alive.”
Ward was first recognised as the oldest fighter in the world 2011.
In 2016 he briefly lost his crown to an American but then regained the title in a fight against Jody Meikle, 35, which he lost in the third round.
Ward is now proud to end his career with his biggest fight of all in front of his own fans on home soil.
“I wanted it where I wanted it or the fight would not take place. I wanted it in front of my own crowd,” he said.
“In 2010 when I came back out of a 23-year retirement the Mansfield people got behind me and they followed me all over when I was winning the other belts.
“I wanted to say thank you to those people. I can’t go round them individually and shake their hands. But I said if I ever got a world title fight I would bring it to Mansfield.
“That’s what I’ve done and that’s my way of saying thank you Mansfield people – every one of them is a star.”
Promoted by Lee Murtagh of Leeds, there are a limited number of tickets remaining for the fight, priced at £30, all-seated, contact 07814 527921 to book.