WATCH: Joe Ward suffers shock defeat in pro debut at Madison Square Garden after retiring with serious knee injury
Warning: Video features graphic footage of injury
JOE WARD's professional boxing debut at the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York has turned into a nightmare.
Ireland's most decorated amateur boxer suffered a serious injury to his left knee when he took an awkward step back in the second round of his pro debut against Marco Delgado. As he was unable to continue the referee awarded the fight to his opponent on a technical knockout.
The Moate southpaw took the step backward while trying to avoid a punch from Delgado.
It is a devastating blow to Ward and his New York based backers, though it will prompt further scrutiny of his decision to turn professional less than a year ahead of the Tokyo Olympics where he would have been a favourite to lift a medal in the light heavyweight class.
In a macabre coincidence it is the second time in his career it is the second time that Ward has suffered a freak knee injury while boxing.
At the 2013 European amateur Championships in Minsk, Belarus Ward was in control of a last 16 fight when forced to retire after a clash of knee with his opponent 20 seconds from the end of the contest. He suffered a dislocated knee cap in that incident.
Footage of the fight against American Marco Delgado show that Ward sustained the injury after his right foot came in contact with Delgado's foot and as the Irishman stepped back he twisted his left foot awkwardly which resulted in the dislocation of the knee cap.
The referee immediately summoned medical personnel into the ring and a doctor succeeded in putting the knee cap back in place, Ward was able to walk gingerly from the ring with assistance from his trainer Jimmy Payne.
Technically the result will go down as a TKO loss for Ward though there were suggestions that his camp might seek to have the fight declared a non-contest.
At the 2013 European championships in Minsk Ward sustained a similar injury to the same knee but was back in the ring a few months later.
In the first round in Madison Square Garden the Moate native had looked very comfortable and was in control of the contest.
But the TV commentator on the DAZN network had mentioned the possibility of the boxers' feet becoming entangled because of their contracting styles – Ward is a southpaw while Delgado is an orthodox fighter. His prediction came to pass early in the second round with devastating consequences for the two-time World silver medallist.
Ward was due to fight again in two weeks' time. This is now obviously out of the question but he could be fit to return to action by St Patrick's Day next year.