Ward's Olympic bid suffers stoppage setback
Joe Ward's hopes of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics through AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) this year were counted out after he was stopped for the first time in his career in Bulgaria.
The Irish light-heavy was TKO'd by France's Mathieu Bauderlique in the fourth frame of Saturday's scheduled eight-rounder in Sofia.
Bauderlique will now meet Bulgaria's Spas Genov, who Ward has already beaten this year, for a place at Rio 2016 and the 2015 APB final versus Iran's Ehsan Rouzbahani.
Ward will face Mauritius' Kennedy St Pierre, who Genov beat comfortably in Sofia on Saturday, in a ranking fight in his last outing of the APB season.
The Westmeath southpaw appeared to be on course of victory against Bauderlique in Sofia. Boxing economically and detonating the majority of power shots, he won the first two rounds. But Bauderlique took the third and forced Ward back onto the ropes and into a standing count in the fourth.
The ref correctly stopped the fight after Ward took a number of unanswered shots seconds after the count was administered. Ireland's David Oliver Joyce is also contracted to APB.
The next Olympic qualifying event for APB boxers, according to AIBA guidelines, will be a tournament with World Series of Boxing (WSB) fighters next May.
APB and WSB boxers can also compete in regular amateur boxing at the World Championships and Olympic qualifiers. "We're disappointed with the outcome and manner of defeat. Things were going well, but the conditioning seemed to have escaped him," said Eddie Bolger, who was working Ward's corner.
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Katie Taylor is due to join the Irish squad in Baku, Azerbaijan, today ahead of the start of the inaugural European Games.
Team Ireland have been in Baku since last Tuesday in training camp. Ireland will be using 12 boxers at the Games. Boxing begins on June 16.