THOMAS PATRICK WARD has spent a plenty of time riding high in the world rankings. But he’s been waiting for his chance to come. The wait will likely continue. He is number three with the WBO for their super-bantamweight belt. But Stephen Fulton is due to box Brandon Figueroa for three of the four major belts including that strap. Michael Conlan is ahead of Ward in the queue for the WBO. So the man from West Rainton will hold the weight no longer. He is moving up to featherweight to pursue a major title and a big fight there. The first stop is Edy Valencia at 128lbs on Saturday (June 12) at the Eagles Community Arena in Newcastle.

“I’ve had some good performances and some good wins. If I get a good win on Saturday night it’ll lead to a big fight. To the ones I’ve been craving,” Ward told Boxing News. “You know what you’re getting with Mexicans. They’re strong and tough. He’ll come to fight, he’ll come to win. So I’m looking forward to it. Training’s going well, everything’s been going well. It won’t be easy.

“When you’re in the boxing world, you know what you’ve got to expect from these Mexicans. You know they’re going to be hard, they’re going to be tough. They’re coming here to fight to upset you.

“We’re in the boxing game. We’re here to fight and to win. So every fight is hard… It should be good though.”

Last time out Ward had a harder-than-expected bout with Thomas Essomba that ended in technical draw after eight rounds when Ward was badly cut. The West Rainton fighter will be looking to recapture some of the fine form he’s shown in his 29 previous victories. “It was a bad night, it was a bad performance. [Essomba] is an underrated fighter. He’s a lot better than his record suggests,” Ward said. “That’s just the way things go sometimes. We’re all human beings, we’re not machines. We can’t just the turn switch every time on even though we’d like to. It is what it is. Obviously I suffered a nasty cut but then again that’s boxing. That’s part of the job.”

Essomba was very familiar with Ward too. They’d sparred plenty of rounds when the Cameroonian was based in Sunderland. The eerie silence of a behind-closed-doors event didn’t help Ward either. “It was strange walking out and there’s nobody there. Just like having a spar. A familiar face as well [in Essomba]. We’ve done tonnes of rounds, me and Thomas, helped him train for a few of his title fights,” Ward said. “He knows me well of course. There was just nothing there for me. There was nothing on the line for me. So it was very, very strange. Very weird but you know I suppose that’s a new experience and [I know] how to handle it if anything like that happens again.”

“You do need nerves,” he continued. “Last time there was no crowd, there was no get up for it. It was just completely different strange. It was a bad performance, it was a bad night but we live and we learn and we just move forward.”

That won’t be a problem this time. A thousand fans will be allowed to attend the event. “It’s going to be like having four or five thousand,” Ward said. “Going back to a crowd, just a bit of normality again.”

He hopes for a good performance to put him in the frame for Emanuel Navarrete, the impressive Mexican who holds the WBO featherweight title. “I was ranked one, two and three at some points when he was champion [at super-bantamweight] and he fought top six guys barring myself. So I wonder why that is. Now he’s a featherweight champion so hopefully I can get a good win Saturday night and then get a final eliminator or him would be ideal,” Thomas said.

“Navarrette’s probably rated the best fighter at the minute,” he adds. “The most dangerous.

“So the way I see it, I beat him then I’m the best. So that kind of fight would be better for me because I’ve got more to gain out of that fight. I do see chinks in his armour. I don’t think he’s unbeatable.”

Ward will hope to prove himself against another Mexican on Saturday and put himself in the frame for the showdown he’s been chasing.