In December I wrote a piece on the current pound 4 pound rankings in Boxing, although the article weighed in a fighters cross over appeal to the public, the quiet and mild mannered Ward was ranked highly at no.2. But on Saturday 17th June Andre Ward indisputably laid claim to Boxings top spot and singled himself out as the best Boxer on the planet.
Andre Ward, a devout Christian who calls himself ‘SOG'(Son of God) is not your typical World Champion Boxer, quiet, calm, assured, never engages in trash talking and composes himself outside the ring just as well as he does inside the ring. For this reason, coupled with relative inactivity over the years, his name is not as big as some of his counterparts, he would probably be more recognised for appearing in the Rocky spin off Creed than for being the World Champion Boxer he actually is. Boxers such as Vasyl Lomachenko, Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez, Roman Gonzalez and Anthony Joshua have stolen the headlines in recent times and most of the names above have been seen as better pound 4 pound Boxers but not any more….
Having already defeated the fearsome Russian Sergey Kovalev in November 2016 by the skin of his teeth, a decision which caused a lot of controversy, many believing Kovalev was robbed and won the fight, Ward would again challenge Kovalev to prove once and for all the first time round was no fluke.
This time round, the build up to the fight was more intense, but mostly from Kovalev. He was not a happy man after Novembers events and was telling everyone who would listen he would ‘kick Andre Ward’s ass’ and how much he disliked the newly crowned Light Heavyweight Champion. To many he was only coming across as bitter and a bad loser but for others it was simply Kovalev not being able to express himself in english, a language which is not his first.
As fight night began there was certainly a much more intense feel to the action, both Ward and Kovalev looked to be going at each other harder than they did in the first bout. Kovalev who complained of overtraining for the first fight was certainly looking fitter here, throwing more punches and using the jab more effectively. Ward was always there or thereabouts, but in the 1st half of the fight, much like their previous fight, Kovalev looked the fitter and stronger Boxer, but only by a whisker and it was Ward who appeared to be slowing in the 5th and 6th round.
The fight though would take a familiar turn in the middle rounds and Ward would begin to take control. Ward continued to target the body and his slick head movement was making Kovalev miss more often. In Round 8, having pummelled Kovalev’s body, albeit with some very borderline body shots, Ward switched levels and caught Kovalev with a beautiful right cross. The shot shook Kovalev to his boots and his knees buckled, sensing the initiative, Ward steamed in and jumped on Kovalev, but his head shots were not landing, instead Ward went low again repeatedly aiming for Kovalevs mid section. Kovalev had already turned his back in the round due to Ward’s body shots, and complained they were low, the referee however was having none of it and waved them on. This time, Ward’s shots to the mid section, which again were borderline and really could have gone either way, forced Kovalev to double over against the ropes. There was nothing coming back from Kovalev, and the referee seeing a defenceless fighter was forced to stop the bout. Andre Ward had done the unthinkable and stopped one of the most aggressive, dangerous and hardest hitters in the sport and beaten him not once, but twice.
Again, just like the first fight there were complaints from the Russians corner and his management. But the mistake really was on Kovalev’s part, however you saw the body shots Ward landed, low, safe or borderline, the fact the referee had previously ignored Kovalev’s concerns meant that Kovalev should not have responded in the same manner and tried to draw the referee’s attention to it again when Ward was targeting and landing on his mid section. Kovalev should have responded in kind and thrown body shots at Ward, perhaps slipping in a low shot as well which would have forced the referee into play. Unfortunately he instead stopped punching and expected the referee to warn Ward for throwing borderline body shots or perhaps he expected a count instead but he was wrong on both counts.
In my opinion the fight should not have been stopped and yes those body shots from Ward were suspiciously low, Kovalev should have been given a count but the outcome would have ended the same, the right hand from Ward had rocked Kovalev who was clearly out on his feet and whether it was in round 8 or later or even if it had gone the full twelve rounds again, the result would have been the same, Ward had changed the tide and was well on to his way to victory, probably by Knock out had it not been stopped when it did.
For Andre Ward, its about time he received his dues as the best Boxer in the world. No other Boxer can claim to have beaten another of the worlds best pound 4 pound boxers not once but twice and Ward has moved up a division to accomplish this, this is something great Boxers do, they clear out one divsion and then clean up the next as they search for more challenges to test their skills. Don’t forget Sergey Kovalev was and still is seen by many as a top 10 Boxer in the world, the former undefeated Light Heavyweight champion has lost just twice in his career, both times to Ward who was coming up from the Super Middleweight division.
Often overlooked for the more flashy fighters such as Lomachenko, or the harder hitters such as Golovkin, Wards style of fighting may not be pleasing to the eye of many observers but there is no doubt his style and ring IQ is effective, his ring smarts have enabled him to nullify bigger and stronger fighters throughout his career and his next goal would be to enter the ring against even bigger and stronger fighters, in the post fight ring interview with Max Kellerman, Ward stated his desire to move up to Cruiserweight and maybe even Heavyweight.
Virgil Hunter, the long time trainer to the former Olympic Gold medallist and undefeated Champion went one step further and proclaimed his man would beat current Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua. Ward is 6ft tall and weighs in at 175lbs for the Light Heavyweight division, Joshua is 6ft 6in and weighs anything between 240-250lbs. By all accounts, Ward is the better boxer, there’s no contest there, ring smarts, technically, defensively Ward is head and shoulders above Joshua, but power is the great equalizer and there are weight divisions in Boxing for a reason, at 6ft Ward will realistically only add around 20lbs before any further weight ends up being bad weight and dragging him down, he will not want to end up carrying excess body fat which will only negatively impact his performance. I would give Ward absolutely zero chance of beating Anthony Joshua, his best bet would be to run for 12 rounds and pot shot whilst hoping Joshua doesn’t even half land a punch because as soon as he does, its all over for Andre Ward. Ward is also 33yrs old, he will have relatively little time to grow into a bigger frame required for Heavyweight Boxing, sure Tony Bellew moved up to beat David Haye in a Heavyweight contest but Bellew is also 6’3 so has a bigger frame to carry the extra weight, David Haye was also a similar size to Bellew and is more of a natural Cruiserweight having previously fought in the division, Joshua physically is just a whole new level who makes Boxers who weigh a more than handy 210-220lbs like Bellew and Haye look ‘small’.
If Ward decides to fight at Heavyweight, his best chance comes against a ‘smaller’ heavyweight and one that doesn’t possess the raw punching power of an Anthony Joshua.
For the time being though, lets just celebrate Andre ward for what he is, the best Boxer in the world.
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Writer for the Ringside Report Boxing Author of: (Available for download on Amazon) The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle