Monday, March 28, 2016

Is Ward Ready For Kovalev?

The storyline heading into Andre Ward’s battle against undefeated IBF number one rated Light-Heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera was whether or not Ward’s sporadic activity as a fighter in recent years would work against him in a bout that ultimately would determine a mandatory challenger for undefeated unified WBO/IBF/WBA Light-Heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev. Despite his status as one of the best fighters in the sport, Ward’s career has been plagued by a combination of promotional issues as well as injuries.

Ward however, has managed to remain unbeaten and is a former unified world champion of the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division. Despite circumstances that have often led to in the ring setbacks for some fighters, Ward has continued to dominate his opposition. The bout against Sullivan Barrera would be no different. For twelve rounds Andre Ward used hand speed, defense, and elusiveness to outbox Barrera in a performance that was highlighted by a third round knockdown as a result of a perfectly timed left hook in what would become a convincing twelve round unanimous decision victory.

There was no drama attached to this fight, but what was noteworthy is despite the struggles he has faced outside of the ring that has prevented him from fighting consistently, Andre Ward proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with. The obvious storyline that comes out of this fight is a potential encounter between Ward and Sergey Kovalev, one of the sport’s feared knockout artists.

This observer has gone on the record in the past in saying that it is time for Kovalev and WBC world champion Adonis Stevenson, widely regarded as the two best Light-Heavyweights in the world to finally make a fight between the two a reality to determine an undisputed Light-Heavyweight world champion. Readers may recall in February of this year following Sergey Kovalev’s second knockout victory over former Light-Heavyweight world champion Jean Pascal that I made an impassioned plea to Boxing’s respective sanctioning organizations, television networks that are involved, and rival promoters to make this fight a reality saying simply “Make It Happen!”

Even though my opinion has not changed, if a fight between Kovalev and Stevenson cannot be made at least in the immediate future, a viable option for Kovalev just might be a title defense against Andre Ward. After all, Ward is as skilled a fighter as they come and has the resume and marquee value that would make him a likely candidate to face Kovalev if in the event a fight against Adonis Stevenson is not an immediate future.

A potential fight between Kovalev and Ward offers an upside for both fighters. For Kovalev, a bout against Ward would offer him another opportunity to show what he can do against a fighter who has been regarded as one of the best fighters pound for pound in the world. For Andre Ward, a fight against Kovalev would not only give him the opportunity at potentially winning a world championship in a second weight division, but more importantly a victory over Kovalev would almost certainly put him back in the discussion among the Boxing’s pound for pound elite.

From a business perspective it would not surprise this observer to see a potential fight between the two possibly headline a pay-per-view card and it would be a legitimate attraction that would likely generate decent pay-per-view numbers in an era where the sport is in transition. An interesting question that some might ask however, is should Andre Ward take on another opponent before facing Kovalev?

It is important to remember that Ward’s victory over Barrera essentially earned him the right to a mandatory title shot against Kovalev, a fighter who is the unified world champion of the Light-Heavyweight division. Even though Ward has been sporadic in terms of his activity in the ring in recent years due to promotional issues and injuries, he has shown no negative effects from what has periodically prevented him from stepping in the ring on a more frequent basis when he has fought regardless of who his opposition might be.

Although some may be of the opinion that Ward should face another opponent before squaring off against Sergey Kovalev, I believe that it will come down to simply what is on the table for both fighters in terms of economics that will determine how soon the fight will take place. This observer believes that if the fight can be made and it makes sense from a financial standpoint for both fighters it would not make sense for either fighter to turn the fight down.

As for whether or not Ward is ready for the challenge of Sergey Kovalev that is a question that will be answered if and when the fight takes place. For a fighter in Ward who has dealt with his share of criticism however, one might argue that there is no better way to silence your critics than to take on a fighter who is viewed as one of the most dangerous in the sport.

Despite this observer’s opinion as to what should happen in the Light-Heavyweight division, if a battle between Kovalev and Ward does take place sometime later this year and if the winner of that fight is then be placed in a bout against Adonis Stevenson to determine an undisputed Light-Heavyweight world champion, it should be viewed as a positive for Boxing. As we have often seen in the sport however, getting fights made that will ultimately benefit Boxing in the long-term is a task that can be easier said than done.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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