IT would be easy to assume that with Joe Ham just months away from his thirtieth birthday, he’s rueing the fact he’s been deprived of a year of his career due to boxing all but stopping as a result of the pandemic. 

On the contrary though, Ham believes the past year has done him the world of good, although his extended period without competitive action has left him desperate to step into the ring for his first fight for almost a year and a half. 

Ham will take on Jack Bateson in Bolton on Saturday and the Glaswegian believes that victory will set him up for an imminent shot at the British title. 

With Ham having made a number of significant tweaks since his last outing, a defeat to Qais Ashfaq for the WBA Continental title in November of 2019, the super bantamweight believes the past year has brought with it a number of significant improvements which have set him up for victory against Englishman Bateson, who had an impressive amateur career, as well as a 12-0 professional record. 

Ham is well familiar with his 26-year-old opponent having trained and competed alongside him during their time in Team GB as amateur fighters and while he both likes and respects Bateson, he is quick to point out those feelings will be put to one side when they take to the ring. 

“He’s a nice boy and I don’t have a bad word to say about him,” the Gorbals fighter says.  

“He was a couple of weights below me but I know him well. I like him but it’s a fight and I believe I’ll beat him.” 

While some athletes took their foot off the gas during lockdown, Ham barely stopped for breath despite the first month of lockdown delivering blow after blow.  

The first disappointment was the lengthy delay to him and his fiancé moving into their new house; the second was the cancellation of his trip to LA to watch the Billy Joe Saunders v Canelo fight; and the third was the cancellation of his own fight, scheduled to take place in April. 

However, with his dad his trainer, he had little opportunity to relax and as soon as gyms were allowed to reopen for elite athletes, was back at it, with the likes of his fellow Commonwealth Games fighters Reece McFadden and Nathaniel Collins his training partners, as well as sparring sessions with new European champion, Lee McGregor. 

So as soon as Ham was offered this fight, despite it being over eight rounds, he had no doubts he was ready. 

“It sounds mad but I’ve been ready for a whole year,” he says.  

“Right throughout the past year, I’ve been training and so I’ve been in good shape. “I found out about this fight at the end of January so I’ve had a full camp which has been good.  

“It’ll be a hard fight but as soon as I was offered it, I jumped at the chance.” 

While some fighters are considering winding down as they approach their 30th birthday, Ham is thinking nothing of the sort. While disappointed to record his second defeat as a pro in his last outing, he admits he wasn’t quite right for that bout and so has used the past year to ensure he has remerged refreshed and improved as a fighter. 

And with the support of his employer, City Building, who have given him 5 weeks off in order to prepare for fight night, Ham is confident of recording his seventeenth pro win. 

“My work are so good with me – and the time off makes such a difference because it means I can focus completely on my training and recovery. I like my job a lot but it’s hard to combine the two,” he says. 

“When I lost my last fight, I don’t know what was up but I just didn’t feel myself.  

“This time though, I know I’m not losing.  

“I feel better now than I did this time last year. I’m 29 but I’m a young 29. I’ve not had any really hard fights – I’ve not taken any damage bar a cut in my last fight so I’ve not had to deal with any of that. 

“I think everything that’s happened in the past year has done me good – I was starting to feel a bit stale and so it’s given me the time to make some changes and that’s been great for me; I’ve changed gyms, my dad has changed the training and I’ve changed management company so I’m looking forward to a fresh start.” 

Ham is fully focused on his upcoming bout but he is in no doubt as to where he wants it to lead.  

Despite the fact that making plans is tricky, to say the least, in the current climate, Ham has his sights set on claiming his first major belt in the not too distant future. 

“I want to win this and hopefully my next fight will be for the British title,” he says.  

“I want big fights so whenever I get the chance, I’ll be ready. I’ll only take a couple of days off after this fight and then I’ll be back in the gym. This pandemic has shown how quickly things can be stopped so I don’t want to waste a minute.”