By Rich Cheney: Andre Ward’s 8th round knockout victory over Sergey Kovalev last Saturday night has some in the boxing world believing he can beat IBF/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. Welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. and WBC 154 lb. champ Jermell Charlo are picking Ward to defeat the 6’6” Joshua.
Ward said on Saturday that he’s interested in moving up to cruiserweight or heavyweight for the right fight in the near future. Ward isn’t decided on his exact plans for his next fight, but he will make the move up in weight for the right fight. Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter sees weakness in Joshua, and he wants Ward to move up to heavyweight to face him.
“Andre Ward is the best pound for pound fighter out there right now,” said Spence to Fighthub. “He did what he did. He boxed his [expletive] off and got the stoppage. Kovalev, gave up that way. I think he’ll beat him,” said Spence about Ward beating Joshua. “He’s going to move to heavyweight? I didn’t hear that.”
“He’ll beat him,” said Jermell Charlo in saying that Ward beats Joshua.
Spence might need to step back and do some more analyzing before he makes a hasty prediction about Ward’s chances against the much bigger Anthony Joshua. Spence seems to be coming more from a place of wishful thinking than in thinking in logic when discussing his opinion about Ward’s chances against Joshua.
Ward vs. Joshua would be ridiculous fight to make unless Ward were to prove himself first at the heavyweight level. It would be another money fight like the mismatch that we’ll be seeing between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor. Ward, 33, would have about as much chance of beating Joshua as McGregor will in defeating Mayweather. The main difference between those 2 fights is McGregor has more of a chance of making it the full 12 rounds than Ward does against the hard hitting 27-year-old Joshua. Mayweather isn’t much of a puncher and he’s 40-years-old. Subsequently, Mayweather is going to be taking fewer chances to try and score a knockout against the always dangerous McGregor. Ward is going to be forced to run and hold all night long against Joshua to try and survive to the final bell in the 12th. I cannot see Ward making it the full distance.
I think there will be a lot of angry boxing fans if Ward and Joshua fight each other. I can see that fight hurting boxing just as much as the mismatch between Mayweather and McGregor. Honestly, Ward has no chance against Joshua. It would be a fight that would be another money grab like Mayweather-McGregor and the terrible fight we witnessed last May between Saul Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on HBO PPV.
Spence would prefer that Ward fight WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson if given the choice. Stevenson is a big puncher in the 175 lb. division, and he would be a real threat to Ward due to his punching power. However, Ward seemed ambivalent when Stevenson’s name was mentioned at the post-fight press conference last Saturday night.
“I guess Adonis Stevenson,” when asked who Ward should fight next.
I don’t think Ward wants to make a fight with Stevenson, and I don’t blame him. Stevenson is dangerous in every aspect of the game for a fighter like Ward, who is no longer unhittable. Stevenson is a southpaw with fast hands and tremendous power. Stevenson has also aged incredibly well. At 39, Stevenson is 6 years older than Ward, but his game hasn’t lost anything. Ward is slower and less mobile than he was in his prime in 2011.
It would look bad if Ward lost to a fighter as old as Stevenson, especially if it was a knockout loss. It would be a hard fight to put together as well due to Stevenson being a big name. He wouldn’t want to take the smaller cut of the revenue like we saw with Kovalev. Stevenson is with Al Haymon, and it would be a complicated fight to make. Ultimately, the high risk that Stevenson would present for Ward will make the fight undoable. I don’t think that Ward is going to want to risk his hide against Stevenson.
If there’s money that Ward can make against Joshua or possibly against a top cruiserweight, then I think he’ll go in that direction. The only fighter at cruiserweight that would give Ward a decent payday is Tony Bellew. He used to fight at light heavyweight until 2013, and he would have problems against Ward. That’s definitely a winnable fight for Ward, because Bellew isn’t a true cruiserweight. He’s more of a light heavyweight who packed on some weight to fight in the cruiserweight division. Bellew never fought the cream of the crop at cruiserweight. He did recently beat David Haye, but that was because of an injury Haye suffered. Ward wouldn’t beat the top cruiserweights in the division. They’re too big and powerful.
”I’d like to see him fight Anthony Joshua. I’m serious. I’m not playing, I’m serious. I think that would be a very interesting fight. I believe he can outbox Anthony Joshua,” said Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter at last Saturday’s post-fight press conference.
The interest in fighting Anthony Joshua is about money for Ward and Hunter. That’s obviously the key. If Ward was interested in really testing himself and making a name at heavyweight, he would move up 2 divisions and start fighting the contenders in that weight class to show that he wants to campaign as a heavyweight and earn a title shot the right way by beating some top contenders.
That’s not what Hunter wants. He wants Ward to just move up in weight to heavyweight for the Joshua fight. It would be a one off type of fight. Ward would fight Joshua, and then likely move back down to light heavyweight if he doesn’t retire from boxing. On the face of it, Ward appears to be looking to cash out with a golden parachute type of fight against Joshua before hanging up his gloves.
“Fighting a bigger man, it doesn’t have to do with size or anything. It has to do with his attributes and their attributes,” said Hunter in discussing his vision of Ward moving up to heavyweight to fight Joshua. ”If you were to single out one thing to make it a competitive fight for yourself, you take that chance, because that’s what he’s here for.”
It would be the smart thing for Ward to try his best to get Joshua to fight him. I think Ward and Kovalev have played out their string with their fights against each other. Kovalev is like an oil well that is no longer producing oil for Ward. It’s extremely doubtful that the boxing public will be at all interested in another Ward-Kovalev fight on HBO PPV. Staying at 175 is pointless for Ward if he’s not going to fight Adonis Stevenson.
There’s nobody else that Ward can fight for a big payday other than Stevenson unless the boxing public falls for the idea of watching a third fight between Ward and Kovalev. I don’t think they will. Kovalev has been arguably ripped off twice in his fights with Ward. If the fans don’t believe Kovalev can be given a fair shake, they’re not going to be interested in paying to see the two fighters go at it for a third time.