If there was anything more frustrating than the manner in which Joe Ward suffered a loss in his pro debut it’s the amount of time he was forced to sit on that result.

A fluke knee injury forced Ward to concede early in the second round of his Oct. 2019 bout with Turlock, California’s Marco Delgado at Madison Square Garden. The first pro fight in his career came with plenty of pre-fight attention, only for the 2016 Irish Olympian to have to not only leave the ring 0-1 but with the loss to linger for more than year given the coronavirus pandemic which plagued much of 2020.

Two wins in Mexico have since graced the record of the 27-year-old Irish southpaw before being presented with the opportunity to right a past wrong. Ward will once again face Delgado (7-1, 5KOs), with their rematch taking place this Thursday on NBC Sports Network from Salinas, Puerto Rico.

“Really exciting to get a second chance this early in my career,” Ward told BoxingScene.com. “What happened the last time won’t happen this time around. All of the focus is on (avenging the loss), winning this fight and moving on to bigger and better things.

Prior to his pro debut, Ward (2-1, 2KOs) was known as a stellar amateur back home in Ireland. A 290-15 record in the amateur ranks is highlighted by three European championships along with claiming silver medals in the 2015 and 2017 World Amateur Championships.

Ward also represented Ireland in the 2016 Rio Olympics, though the luck of the Irish was hardly on their side during the controversial games which saw a number of officials dealt with on-the-spot suspensions. Ward—who was heavily favored to medal—was among those who suffered a questionable defeat, as he outboxed Ecuador’s Carlos Mina only to lose two points for holding as he landed on the wrong end of a massive upset in the round of 16.

There was discussion of sticking around in the amateurs long enough to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Instead came the decision in 2019 to turn pro, which proved wise as it would have been an extra year of waiting with the pandemic delaying the quadrennial Games. Even with a loss in his first fight as a pro, there are no regrets in the route he has chosen.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for revenge.

“This is something that I need to do in order to move on with my career,” notes Ward, who has earned a pair of 1st round knockout wins last December in Mexico. “I hope 2021 is a very good year. I hope to be out there at least six times this year and set up a really big 2022.

“For now, the plan is to show that with me and [Delgado], we are just two completely different class of fighters. I won’t allow myself to be defined by a fluke loss.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox