Dagenham old boys aim to sparkle on big stage

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 March 2017

Martin J Ward (left) and Ronnie Clark during their British super-featherweight title bout at Wembley (pic Steven Paston/PA)

Martin J Ward (left) and Ronnie Clark during their British super-featherweight title bout at Wembley (pic Steven Paston/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Ward and Okolie in action at Manchester

Lawrence Okolie competed for Team GB at the Rio Olympics (pic David Davies/PA) Lawrence Okolie competed for Team GB at the Rio Olympics (pic David Davies/PA)

Former Dagenham amateurs Martin J Ward and Lawrence Okolie are both aiming to sparkle at the big world title bill at the Manchester Arena on Saturday.

Both appear on the undercard of Anthony Crolla’s world lightweight unification rematch with Jorge Linares, with Ward defending his British title and Okolie making his pro debut on the bill screened on Sky Sports.

Ward, who started his amateur career at the Dagenham gym, makes the second defence of his British super-featherweight title when he faces Yorkshire’s Maxi Hughes for the third time.

And the unbeaten champion wants to put in an impressive performance to prove that this is the year he will land more major titles.

“I’m going to go in there and smash him,” said Ward.

“I want to be getting up there for European titles, and on to the world stage.

“I want to get up there now this year. I have been pro since 2012 and I am ready to take on some of the big boys.”

Okolie is the first of the 2016 Team GB Olympians to taste action in the paid ranks and could follow a Dagenham tradition as he makes his pro debut against Russell Henshaw.

He is the third ex-Dagger to face Henshaw after Jose Lopes and Robin Dupre both outpointed the tough Derby fighter who has won seven of his 11 bouts.

The 24-year-old prospect said: “Everyone is excited to see how I do and I am too, I believe that I can do the business but I am stepping into the unknown, it’s really exciting.

“I’ve learnt how to deal with handling the weight of expectation and still perform to the best of my abilities, and that’s going to stand me in good stead in the pros.”

*Paul Upton slammed his way to a 13th straight victory when halting Bulgarian Nikolay Kolyandov in three one-sided rounds at Brentwood on Friday night.

The super-welterweight member of the Upton Clan, all former Dagenham amateurs, outgunned his rival in every round before referee Robert Williams called a halt.

Now Upton will cheer brother Sonny as he faces Middleton’s Matt Ryan in Manchester on Friday night for the English super-welterweight title hoping to become a third family member to win a national title.

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