It has been approximately 16 months since Andre Ward competed inside a boxing ring, and it doesn’t appear like he is in any hurry to end his layoff. It seemed like the outside issues preventing Ward from competing were finally behind him when it was announced a few months ago that he had reached a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports. The ugly mess with his former promoter, Goossen Tutor, was contractually concluded, and it appeared like Ward and Jay-Z were ready to begin a promising partnership that would reach superstar heights with HBO as its platform.
However, the reports that surfaced last month suggest Ward is willing to hold out even longer than he already has, and now his issue seems to be with HBO. The initial word out of Ward’s camp and Ward himself was that a tune-up fight was in order before stepping up against the biggest and best challengers the sport had to offer. The call for a tune-up fight is as predictable as it is reasonable.
The problem is Ward expects HBO to pay him big bucks for the tune-up against a low-grade opponent. There are two things that Ward needs to understand: first, ever since Ken Hershman has taken over at the helm for HBO boxing he has made it his mission to get rid of the overpaying reputation that the network had gained from the years that his predecessor was in charge. The other thing Ward needs to understand is that HBO is willing to put money into his future and pay him the big dollars when he indeed steps up to the plate.
The super middleweight kingpin should remember the perks that came along with his decision to fight Chad Dawson. The company ultimately decided to push Ward without giving away their hope for him to win. But once he defeated Dawson, Ward was instantaneously a staple within the HBO family, and he began doing more commentator gigs and was also the centerpiece behind some HBO features.
Another good reminder for Ward at this point would be for him not to forget that he is responsible for the significant decline in his own notoriety, not to mention the reputation discrepancies within his brand.
Just search Ward’s name in any social media platform, and you’ll undoubtedly find droves of fans claiming Ward is scared to fight Sergey Kovalev or that he is ducking Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. People forget about the gauntlet that Ward ran in the Super 6 Tournament, and the fact that he fought and defeated the lineal light heavyweight champion in Dawson—granted, the fight took place at 168lbs.
Ward is not afraid to fight anyone, I know this to be true because no man that racks up a resume like Ward’s in such short amount of time within their career would ever dodge another man, no matter how “scary” they are perceived to be.
And yet, I can understand why fans feel the way they do about Ward’s perceived reservations to fight either Kovalev or Golovkin. They feel this way because Ward has allowed them to forget. He hasn’t fought in so long that it is easy to forget how dominant he was over great fighters. He has been gone on his own accord and because it has been his decision, fans perceive his absence as a way to stay away from the dangerous punchers that await his return. He has been gone so long that he has been taken off of most respectable “Pound for Pound” lists.
Ward has been gone so long that his dominant performance over Carl Froch has all but been forgotten and now there are fans that want to see the fight, and some fans even believe that Froch has a chance.
Of course, Ward has every right to conduct his career the way he chooses, even if he derails everything he’s built for himself. But he’d best serve his own career if he got back into the ring as quickly as possible. This would serve to get him back on track quicker because even though he’d break his layoff, we would still be looking at more time between his next significant fight.
In other words, if Ward fights in April/May then he could conceivably land a big fight in the fall of this year. If he takes another tune-up fight before fighting a significant opponent, then we’re looking at a big fight in spring 2016.
However, the longer he puts off the tune-up, the longer it will take to see him fight someone significant. If he doesn’t get into the ring until the summer or early fall, then Ward won’t get back into high-level prizefighting until mid-2016, assuming he only takes one tune-up. Fighting right away will allow him the luxury of making 2015 a comeback year where he takes multiple tune-ups in preparation for a huge 2016. If he wants two tune-ups, he’d better get crackin’.
There is, however, one other reason to start fighting right away. Ward is inadvertently shortening his time at super middleweight. Let’s say Ward has another 18 months left at comfortably making 168lbs, which means three fights, maybe four at the weight class before age and biology force his move up.
If Ward allows his body to dictate the move, then he will be in a situation where he will have to quickly fight Kovalev. There is no way he can fight more than two fights in the weight class before the pressure becomes overwhelming. I don’t know if Ward will be able to become acclimated in that amount of time, and what if HBO gets desperate and throws so much money at the fight that Ward has to take it sooner.
Here is another dilemma, the bigger Ward gets, the bigger Golovkin gets. “GGG” will undoubtedly make a move to 168lbs eventually. He’s a smaller version than the super middleweights we’ve gotten accustomed to seeing, but not by much. If Ward is forced into fighting a bigger version of Golovkin after fighting Kovalev at his natural weight, then it seriously hinders his advantages over a span of time at 175lbs.
The alternative to this scenario: Ward fights right away and builds towards a match with Gennady Golovkin. As it stands, Ward doesn’t have enough juice to dictate a full jump up in weight class from Golovkin. The fight makes more sense as a catch-weight, right now. But, if Ward can make some noise and dictate the terms of a fight with Golovkin.
Golovkin is the fighter that Ward wants to fight before facing Kovalev. Golovkin is less tested than Kovalev. Where Kovalev has proven he has the skills to defeat a master boxer like he did against Bernard Hopkins, Golovkin’s experience is limited against a wide array of skilled boxers. Golovkin, on the other hand, has proven easier to hit. Golovkin will adopt the Mexican style of fighting in the course of a fight where he gives 2 to get 1.
Kovalev hits harder than Golovkin, and that is based on physical size. Ward would fare better taking as little punishment as he could, but picking between two power punchers is deciding the lesser of two evils. A bloated Golovkin is far less dangerous than a Kovalev in his natural weight class.
Ward would have an easier time being the true A-side in a fight with Golovkin because Golovkin doesn’t have any other major fights on the horizon. Cotto won’t fight him, Kid Chocolate isn’t a huge fight in reality, and Carl Froch is a pipe dream at this point in Froch’s career.
However, Kovalev can keep putting guys away in dramatic fashion as he awaits a unification match with Adonis Stevenson, which is a bigger fight than Ward and one that seems to be more likely than it appeared last month.
Ward needs to get back as soon as possible and try to get a win against Golovkin. That would be a conceivable and beneficial strategy upon return. Otherwise, he might be doomed to calling a fight with Andre Dirrell the biggest thing in boxing, and he’d be wrong.