The biggest question heading into Andre Ward’s 12 round contest with Paul Smith this Saturday at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California is what comes next for the former #2 pound for pound fighter in the world?
It is never a good idea for a fighter to look past an opponent, regardless of the perceived discrepancy in skillset between the two. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t.
The probability of Ward leaving the Oracle Arena with a victory is extremely likely, but that doesn’t mean we should fault Ward, who is coming off of a 19 month layoff, because he needs time to adjust and account for potential ring rust. It isn’t a particularly interesting matchup and a win means nothing other than one of boxing’s best back in action.
So, what is this fight leading to? With Smith acting as the first step, where does this road lead and who is at the end of it?
Logic, and Ward, says that Smith could merely be the first of two or three potential tune up fights. The truth is Ward’s next opponent may not be all that much better than Smith. Ward’s next opponent may very likely be of the same caliber as Smith.
I don’t know who Ward considers his immediate rival, and I’m not even sure if he has a real idea of what fans expect from him.
Obviously, names like Gennady Golovkin, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Sergey Kovalev stick out in a fan’s mind when considering the more interesting routes for Ward, although Chavez might be more of a golden ticket type fight for Ward and Kovalev is probably a longer term plan.
One thing is for sure and that is Ward is smart. He understands the nature of the beast. Opponents aside, Ward knows the blueprint and he made that clear when speaking to a group of reporters in a video on Thaboxingvoice’s YouTube channel.
“I just want the best fights. It’s been like trying to pull teeth trying to get guys in the ring. It’s funny, when they want to build a reputation on being fearless and build a reputation on being this monster they’ll go that route. But when they’re presented with a fight that maybe they don’t want they get very political. They start saying things that don’t add up. That’s not what I got into the game for,” Ward said.
It is unclear who Ward is referring to. He may have just been speaking in generalities.
Ward is trying to play the blame game a bit and should realize his biggest issue with landing a fight has been his own. He was the one sitting out and can’t really talk about others refusing to fight him when he willingly sat on the sidelines. It is perfectly okay for a fighter to be unhappy with his contract, but it is a bit hypocritical to suggest he is being “pitched around” when refusing to step up to the plate.
Now, Ward is back in full gear, unless he isn’t and becomes dissatisfied with his new set of circumstances with Roc Nation Sports, who he signed a long-term contract with a few months ago. Regardless, if Ward continues to be ducked now that he is fighting again then we can start to point the finger in specific directions.
I do not know who Andre Ward considers a significant opponent, but he is at least clear on what the end game consists of and that is him becoming a PPV attraction.
“I understand business. I understand letting things build up and waiting for certain fights, but it’s been rough trying to get guys in the ring and all I can do is present myself, whether it’s at [168lbs] or [175lbs], when that time comes, and just be available when those guys step up. PPV is just about having the right dancing partner and that’s all I’m waiting on.