Andre Ward handled business last Saturday night by defeating the previously unbeaten Sullivan Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs) courtesy of a 12 round unanimous decision in front of a raucous crowd in Ward’s native Oakland, California.
In the accomplished boxer’s first fight at the full 175-pound limit, Ward showed why he was once considered to be among the top pound for pound fighters in the world by shaking off an early case of ring rust and cruising to a decisive victory against an outmatched but game Barrera.
Ward’s performance left little doubt that he does belong in the light heavyweight division and deserves to be mentioned among the best in the weight class. The man who currently sits at the top of the light heavyweight division (in most fans opinion) is WBO, IBF, WBA(super) champion, Sergey Kovalev, who is looking for a worthy challenger after 8 successful title defenses. Look no further than Andre Ward.
Fans have been craving for a Ward-Kovalev matchup since it became a reality that Ward was going to be moving up to light heavyweight following his self-imposed hiatus. When Ward signed a three-fight contract with HBO Boxing before the Barrera fight, it was almost assured that a fight with Kovalev would be the Target for HBO. No obstacles, No barriers needed to be crossed, just a matter of time before two of boxing’s best could square off.
Before Ward’s fight Saturday night, Kovalev and his promoter, Kathy Duva, took questions from the media in which both confirmed that there is a deal in place for the two stars to fight in the fall, most likely in November. However, according to Duva both Ward and Kovalev have agreed that any tuneup fights before their presumed title fight must take place before the end of June.
“The contract with Ward, they both have to fight again by the end of June.” said Duva when explaining why it would be difficult to set up a stay busy fight for Kovalev in his native Russia. When asked what would happen if Andre doesn’t fight before July, Duva replied: “Then he won’t fight…the next fight will be against Sergey.”
Ward, to his credit, has not been afraid to voice his opinion that he would like a couple tune ups before getting into the ring with Kovalev. Quite frankly It would be good business for him to squeeze in another tuneup out of his three contracted fights with HBO, but the dilemma for Ward is if he would be able to find a suitable opponent that would satisfy the networks expectations by the end of June. It just might be possible that the next time we see Ward in a boxing ring, he has “the Krusher” staring back at him.
Ward didn’t give a definitive answer when asked by HBO analyst Max Kellerman, in a post-fight interview, if the Kovalev bout will be his second fight on the HBO deal or if another fight will precede Kovalev. “I’m gonna let my team work that out. I’ve been focused on Sullivan Barrera. There is no second fight, there is no shot at the title if I don’t handle business tonight. This is done, so we’ll put our focus toward that now.”
Ward did have a definitive answer for the critics who doubt that he wants to get in the ring with Kovalev and believe the fight will not happen.
“You know me. It’s never a problem. You look at my track record, I wanna fight the best. I’ve always fought the best. Me and Sergey Kovalev, he’s a great champion, he’s the man at light heavyweight. It’s not a matter of if, I just think it’s when.” Ward told Kellerman.
As of right now, Ward-Kovalev is the best fight that can be made in boxing. Two world class fighters, in their prime, in a true 50-50 matchup. If it takes an in between fight for both to make it possible, so be it. When the fight happens is not as important as if the fight happens which according to all accounts, will take place by the end of the year.