By Jeff Aranow: Following his low blow stoppage win over Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev last Saturday night, Andre “SOG” Ward says he’s considering a unification fight against WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson, as well as a move to cruiserweight or heavyweight. Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) is a southpaw with one-punch power that he uses to knockout his mostly marginal opposition. Ultimately, I see Ward staying FAR away from Adonis Stevenson simply because he’s too dangerous to fight. Stevenson would be a threat to knocking Ward out every second he’s in there with him, and I believe instinctively, Ward knows this. Ward selected Kovalev to fight after studying him and realizing he would have a chance of beating him. I believe it’s no coincidence that Ward didn’t select Stevenson to fight when he moved up to 175.
Ward knocked out Sergey Kovalev in the 8th round last Saturday night on HBO PPV at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was the second time Ward and Kovalev have fought each other.
Kovalev’s promoter Kathy Duva said after the fight that she doubts a third fight will happen between Ward and Kovalev. She says he’s going to move on with Kovalev. However, she is going to appeal the strange stoppage by referee Tony Weeks by appealing to the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
If Stevenson were to land as many punches on Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) as Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) did last night, it could be bad for Ward. Stevenson is a dangerous fighter for anyone that gets hit by him, and Ward would get hit. Hopefully, Ward wouldn’t opt to throw low blows like he did to get his knockout win over Kovalev last night. For the boxing fans that didn’t see the Ward-Kovalev 2 fight last Saturday night, Ward hit Kovalev with 3 consecutive low blows in the 8th round. The referee Tony Week stepped in and gave Ward a knockout win. You couldn’t dream this kind of stuff up. It looked really weird the way Tony Weeks stopped the fight. Weeks looked like he had gotten confused in what you’re supposed to do when a fighter starts fouling over and over. It seems like he got it backwards in giving Ward the win.
”No disrespect to Stevenson, but I haven’t even been thinking of him,” said Ward. I have to see if it makes sense. I’m not ruling it out.”
At this point in Ward’s career, I think he’s more interested in getting the best payday possible. Stevenson would seem like an obvious choice for Ward to get a big payday. It’s a great fight. Ward could also fight the winner of the Nathan Cleverly vs. Badou Jack fight.
Here are the options for Ward if he stays at 175 for his next fight:
– Adonis Stevenson
– Nathan Cleverly
– Badou Jack
– Artur Beterbiev
– Sergey Kovalev
– Dmitry Bivol
– James DeGale
– George Groves
– Callum Smith
– Anthony Dirrell
Stevenson would give Ward his best payday if the fight could be made for HBO PPV. However, Stevenson fights on Showtime Boxing, while Ward is under contract with HBO. I don’t think that would be a deal killer if both fighters wanted to make the fight. Ultimately, what would prevent Ward and Stevenson from fighting each other is Ward’s lack of interest in fighting the 39-year-old Stevenson. Ward doesn’t appear to have a driving interest in facing Stevenson.
Ward has his reasons for not being energized by a fight against Stevenson. You can argue that Stevenson’s punching power might be the main reason, as well as his southpaw stance. Ward wasn’t looking to fight Stevenson when the two of them were in the super middleweight division. Nothing has changed with Ward since he moved up to 175.
In talking about moving up to cruiserweight or heavyweight, Ward said,“It’s serious, that’s a real thing. I don’t have anything on the books right now for a cruiserweight fight, a heavyweight fight. I know it sounds crazy when you’re a light heavyweight, and I’m not the biggest light heavyweight. But it’s always been a dream of mine and it’s something me and Virgil Hunter talk about. I do really well against big fighters because of my stamina, and though I’m not the biggest, I’m strong. So if the right opportunity and the right fighter comes along, anything is possible. That’s not just talk, that’s real.”
If Ward moves up to cruiserweight, he would be looking to face one of these guys:
– Denis Lebedev
– Beibut Shumenov
– Oleksandr Usyk
– Mairis Briedis
– Murat Gassiev
Those are tough fighters. I don’t think Ward would have much luck trying to attack Briedis, Gassiev or Usyk with body shots. Those guys have monstrous power. If Ward gets on the inside against any of them, he would take bad punishment. Getting in close against a mover like Usyk would be impossible for Ward. Usyk is nothing like Kovalev. He doesn’t stand still. Ward was able to land his low blows against Kovalev because he stationary long enough for him to land the shots. After the bad job referee Tony Weeks did in policing Ward’s low blows last night, I think it’s doubtful that a second referee would want to put himself in the same position where he lets Ward throw low blows without doing something about it by warning him and then taking points off. Weeks seemed like he wasn’t thinking at all last night when he allowed Ward to get away with hitting Kovalev low 4 times in the 7th and 8th. Paulie Malignaggi said he thought Tony Weeks was “partisan” in leaning in favor of Ward. Malignaggi thinks that Weeks was just dying for an excuse to stop the fight.
The move up in weight seemed more like Ward talking about a pipe dream. It doesn’t appear that the 33-year-old Ward is serious about moving up to cruiserweight. It doesn’t make sense in term of the money Ward can make in moving up in weight. There are no stars at cruiserweight that would be worthwhile for Ward to fight for a big payday.
If Ward fought cruiserweight champions Denis Lebedev or Oleksandr Usyk, he might beat them, but he wouldn’t be given much credit because those guys aren’t well-known among the casual boxing fans. If Ward tries to sell a fight against Lebedev or Usyk on HBO PPV, it would likely bring in very few PPV buys. The money isn’t there for Ward to fight those guys. Those fighters have better stamina than Kovlalev, and they take a better punch. Usyk and Lebedev have never been hurt before in the pros, so Ward couldn’t count on hurting them with a right hand like he did against the 34-year-old Kovalev in the 8th round last Saturday night. Unless Ward’s game plan to beat Usyk and Lebedev is to wait until the 8th round to start bombing them with low blows one after another, I think his chances of beating those guys would be poor. Ward would also need a lenient referee that allows him to his Usyk and Lebedev with low blows for him to win by fouling like we saw last night.
If Ward moves up to heavyweight, he would need to target a flawed champion like Joseph Parker if he were intent on trying to win a title. It would still be a very hard fight for Ward, because Parker has heavy hands and a good jab. If Parker hit Ward with one of his uppercuts, it would be all over. Ward did not look powerful last night other than when he was throwing low blows. Parker would have little problems taking Ward’s head and body shots. If Ward is just interested in getting the biggest payday possible, then his options would need to be Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder. It would be a circus fight if Ward moved up to heavyweight and was given a world title shot without having to prove himself. Ward would have virtually no chance of beating any of the bigger champions like the 6’6” Joshua or the 6’7” Wilder. Ward would be too small for the 6’6” Wladimir Klitschko, who knows how to use his size to win against shorter guys like Ward. At 6’0”, Ward would be tiny against any of the top heavyweights. You throw Ward in with the 6’4” Parker, and he’s going to have immediate problems with the size and power of the champion. Ward would be out of his element against the contenders in the heavyweight division like Luis Ortiz, Hughie Fury, Alexander Povetkin, Kubrat Pulev, Bermane Stiverne and Dillian Whyte. I don’t think Ward would have any interest in fighting the contenders at heavyweight. I believe Ward would be looking for an immediate world title shot against Joshua, Wilder or Parker. It wouldn’t exactly be fair for Ward to be given a title shot immediately, but this is boxing. I can see the sanctioning bodies allowing Ward to bypass the contenders to get an immediate world title shot.
Here are Ward’s possible options if he moves to heavyweight:
– Anthony Joshua
– Deontay Wilder
– Joseph Parker