Ryan Songalia

Stuart Hall to defend title vs. Martin Ward on March 29

MANILA, Philippines — Stuart Hall is ready to defend his title.

The recently-crowned IBF bantamweight champ will make his first defense against fellow County Durham native Martin Ward on March 29 in Newcastle, England, Hall's promoter Dennis Hobson says.

"It's the first time in history that two guys from the Northeast (of England) will be fighting for a major title," said Hobson. "Martin Ward, he's a traveler so I think there's a bit of needle between them. I think the press conferences and face-offs should be quite interesting. I think it's going to generate a lot of interest."

The 33-year-old Hall won the vacant title with a dramatic unanimous decision victory over Vusi Malinga last month. Hall (16-2-1, 7 knockouts) jumped out to an early lead after dropping Malinga in Round 3 but fought the final three rounds virtually blind from cuts and swelling.

Ward (18-2, 4 KOs), who lives just 30 minutes down the road in West Rainton, won the British Commonwealth bantamweight title in his last fight and has now won two straight since being stopped in five rounds by Lee Haskins in April. Haskins also owns a 2012 victory over Hall.

Hobson, who had previously led Jamie McDonnell and Clinton Woods to world titles, was part of a boxing consortium headed by former three-division world champion Shane Mosley to scout the terrain for a fundraising event in Manila on May 24 to benefit victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

The United Boxing Relief Fund, as it's called, will look to host a black-tie dinner, with many top boxing personalities having been invited. Mosley said the dinner already has commitments from Filipino boxers Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr., while Mike Tyson and Amir Khan highlight the invite list.

"What can we do to make a difference? This tragedy is felt all over the world. Through boxing and bringing the events here, it's creating awareness that people's lives are still in chaos," said Hobson.

Hobson is also keen on cultivating local boxing talent, which he hopes to get involved with for a boxing event in the Philippines.

"We've been getting involved with local promoters and managers who we've interviewed, and maybe we can give a Filipino boxer a chance of getting a title shot when maybe he wouldn't get one," said Hobson. "With our resources and connections, maybe we can get him to jump the cue and that's the plan."

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