Barrow boxer Liam Conroy will relish the atmosphere when he faces hometown fighter Steven Ward for the WBO European light heavyweight title at Belfast’s Ulster Hall tonight.

The bout is Conroy’s second title shot of the year, following his unsuccessful challenge for the British title against former Olympian Joshua Buatsi three months ago.

Not only will the 26-year-old be up against a sparring partner in the undefeated Ward, but he will also likely have a vociferous crowd on his back for what is his third fight since making his comeback from long-term injury against Buatsi in March.

It will certainly be a very different atmosphere from his previous fight against Elvis Dube last month, which was early on the card and slugged out in front of a mostly empty Brentwood Centre, with this contest topping the bill.

Conroy said: “I really enjoy it when I face a local fighter because the crowd don’t get to me or anything like that – I just soak up the atmosphere and use it in my favour.

“I just enjoy every moment of it in there. I’ve done it before, I’ve had successful nights away and I’ve had unsuccessful nights away, but I just enjoy a good atmosphere.

“I love the fact the fans get involved, whether they boo me or they’re cheering me on”

Conroy and Ward are likely to be familiar with each other’s styles, given how much time they’ve sparred together, but the Johnney Roye-trained Barrovian is confident he can come home with the belt if he sticks to his normal strategy.

He said: “We’ve just been working on improving my reflexes, regardless of who the opponent is.

“I let Johnney have a look and he comes up with the specific little tweaks that we ultimately bring into the fight, but for this one we know each other pretty well.

“It’s not going to be too much different from all the spars we’ve had together, although I expect he’ll be a bit sharper in front of his home crowd.

“But I’m pretty confident that I’m good enough to beat him in all areas.”

It’s a friendly rivalry between the two boxers, who have helped each other out in preparations for other fights within the last year.

What isn’t in doubt is that Ward will be a massive step up in quality from Dube, as the 29-year-old Ulsterman is unbeaten in his 11 previous professional fights, his most recent being a fifth-round victory against Bulgaria’s Abdula Arabie in April.

Conroy said: “We’ve sparred each other for a lot of rounds – I helped him out while he was going for the Celtic title against Steve Collins Jr, while I was injured. I was sparring with him a lot then.

“He then then helped me during the Buatsi camp and returned the favour and we got on well.

“It will be interesting to see what game plan his camp comes up with.”