American bantamweight Trevor Ward lost via TKO after a corner stoppage May 11 in Tokyo to Pancrase champion Shintaro Ishiwatari. Ward is only 23 years old and seemed like a genuine and enthusiastic young man when we spoke with him the day before he took off from his home in Springfield, IL for Tokyo.
Seeing someone like that take a tough loss is never fun. Yet, our brief conversation with Ward before the fight leads us to believe that the kid will be all right.
Ward had already fought four times in 2013 and once in 2014 when he got the call to fight Ishiwatari on just days’ notice. Ishiwatari is one of the more accomplished bantamweights out of Japan, and had over twenty professional fights, dating back to 2006. Those five total fights of Ward’s in 2013 and 2014 actually comprise his entire career, and one of those bouts was an amateur one.
If you’re thinking that it takes a lot of guts and confidence for a 4-0 fighter to take on a champion with five times as many fights in his home country, on little over a week’s notice, Ward wouldn’t have disagreed. “Haha, definitely! If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ve already lost,” Ward told us the day before he embarked for Japan.
“Why go if you don’t think you can win?”
What is reassuring, in the aftermath of Ward’s rough loss is that he wasn’t just confident heading into his mission impossible, he was philosophical. We asked Ward to ponder the potentially life-changing effects of winning a major championship so early in his MMA career.
Sure, a quick path to a title and extra cash can come in handy, but experience is priceless to Ward. “I’ll be a champion – that would be huge. But, most importantly, I’m going to learn so much doing this fight,” he said.
“This guy has fought and beaten legends. I grew up watching Caol Uno and he beat him! How can you not want to fight that guy? I’ve got four fights and he’s got twenty-two. How can I not learn?”