By Allan Fox: If Andre Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter gets his way, Ward will be fighting for a heavyweight world title in his next fight against IBF/WBA champion Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs). Hunter says he sees it as a waste of time for Ward to move up to the cruiserweight division.
He thinks it’s a better idea if the 33-year-old Ward moves up 2 divisions to fight Joshua at heavyweight. Indeed, moving up one division to cruiserweight could spoil it for Ward if he’s looking to get a big payday fight against the unbeaten Anthony Joshua. Ward would have his hands full at cruiserweight against the top echelon fighters Mairis Briedis, Murat Gassiev, Denis Lebedev and Oleksandr Usyk.
Hunter isn’t saying what it would be a waste of time for Ward to move to the cruiserweight but it would seem fairly obvious that the money wouldn’t be that good for Ward, because there are no stars in the cruiserweight division. For all intents purposes, Ward would be stuck fighting guys that be the equiuvalent of a new and improved version of Kovalev. Ward had his hands full with Kovalev in his two fights. Just imagine how many problems Ward would have against dangerous fighters like Usyk, Gassiev, Lebedev and Briedis.
Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) revealed that he wants to move up to either cruiserweight or heavyweight following his 8th round technical knockout win over former 175 lb. champion Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) last Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ward says it’s not just a dream for him to move up to cruiserweight or heavyweight for his next contest. He’s serious about wanting to make that move. He says it would have to be against the right guy.
Ward’s trainer Hunter believes that he out-box the 6’6”, 250 pound Joshua. That might be hard for the 6-foot Ward to do, because he would be giving up 6 inches in height and at least 50 lbs. in weight. Ward seemed small compared to the 6’0” Kovalev last Saturday night. Kovalev was the rangier of the two due to his longer reach. Ward’s face was puffed up by the jabs that Kovalev kept hitting him with.
Joshua is enormous compared to Kovalev and Ward. You throw Ward in with Joshua, and it could be bad news for “SOG” and his unbeaten record. But if Ward is going to lose to anyone, Joshua would be the guy. It is an ideal cash out fight for Ward. If they can fill the 90,000 seat Wembley Stadium like the Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko fight did, Ward would make a fortune from the ticket and PPV sales in the UK, as well as the PPV money on HBO. It’s not just a good deal for Ward. It’s also a good deal for his trainer Hunter. He’d be riding the gravy train, and he’ be able to share in some of the loot that Ward gets being his trainer. The green stuff that Ward gets for a fight against Joshua would be extensive. It would be trickle down green stuff that would find it’s way into Hunter’s hands as well.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn would likely be open to having his fighter give Andre Ward a title shot if he had an open date for him. However, Joshua has a possible rematch against Wladimir Klitschko that would be taking place in December. Following that fight, Joshua is required to fight his International Boxing Federation mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in the first quarter of 2018.
So, assuming the 27-year-old Joshua wins both of those fights, he could be in the position to defend against Ward by mid-2018 in the summer. Ward would need to stay busy for the remainder of 2017 by fighting at least once. If Ward wants to stay inactive waiting for the Joshua fight, he might need to give up his three light heavyweight titles.
Kovalev would like to get his hands on those belts, as he feels like he was robbed by the referees in his first fight with Wad. Kovalev also has a major beef with the referee Tony Weeks, who worked the Ward-Kovalev 2 rematch last Saturday night. Weeks stopped the fight in the 8th round following 3 consecutive low blows thrown by Ward. Shockingly, Weeks gave Ward an 8th round technical knockout win over Kovalev, who was doubled over from the 3 low blows. It was so strange that you couldn’t dream a crazy scenario like this happening if you tried. Weeks seemed to have the worst possible performance a referee could have.
“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 Andre Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter at the post-fight press conference last Saturday night. ”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. 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 Hunter.
Hunter has got to be kidding if he doesn’t think size counts when/if Ward fights a much bigger fighter. Size DOES matter. Ward isn’t going to be able to compete on an even playing field against someone like Joshua if he’s going to be giving away 6 inches in height and over 50 pounds in weight.
I know Roy Jones Jr. bulked up from light heavyweight to 193 pounds to defeat WBA World heavyweight champion John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz by a 12 round unanimous decision on March 1, 2003. That was a much different situation than Andre Ward potentially moving up to heavyweight to fight the hulking Anthony Joshua. Ruiz was a medium sized heavyweight at 6’2”, 226 lbs., and he wasn’t a big puncher.
Ruiz was a guy that used a mauling type of fighting style to nullify his opponent’s offense. That style worked for Ruiz most of his career; with the exception of his fights against Roy Jones, David Haye and David Tua.
“There are some things about Joshua that I see,” said Hunter. ”Now he’s a good kid, I do him and he’s swell but I’m telling you. I see things with him in particular and he’s the best. But styles make fights. Styles make fights. It would be a waste of time to go to cruiser, just leapfrog”.
Joshua was exposed in his last fight against Wladimir Klitschko on April 29.
Wladimir used his jab, powerful right hand and movement to give Joshua fits. However, Wladimir is a huge heavyweight at 6’6”, 243 lbs., and he had the power and the mobility to give Joshua problems. Ward doesn’t have Wladimir’s size, power or even his mobility. That’s the sad part. Wladimir moves better than Ward does around the ring. Ward’s knee problems have slowed his mobility. Ward moves slowly nowadays when circling the ring and attacking. You don’t see the fast leg speed that Ward possessed years ago.
Hunter clearly doesn’t want Ward’s meal ticket, his unbeaten record, ruined by him moving up to cruiserweight and getting beaten in his first fight in that division. Ward can’t punch at 175. At cruiserweight, his power wouldn’t be enough to allow him to compete against the top fighters in that weight class. If cruiserweights like Murat Gassiev, Briedis and Usyk don’t respect Ward’s power, they’re going to walk through his shots and take him out quickly.
”I do really well against big fighters because of my stamina, because I may not physically be the biggest but I’m strong,,” said Ward. ”So if the right opportunity and the right fighter comes along, anything is possible. That’s not just talk, that’s real.” said Ward.
Ward might need to be less picky if he wants to fight for a world title at heavyweight. Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua might not be available for a while. Ward can wait for one of those two to free up. But in the meantime, Ward will hav a TON of pressure for him to fight WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in a unification fight.
The boxing public will likely give Ward a pass for him beating Kovalev by fouling him with low blows to beat him rather than beating him fair and square. But the fans aren’t going to go for the idea of Ward milking his titles without him fighting someone good. If Ward says at light heavyweight while he waits for Joshua to get free at heavyweight, then the fans are going want him to fight Adonis Stevenson, Artur Beterbiev or Dmitry Bivol. In other words, the boxing world is going to want to see Ward fight quality each time out. Ward can’t take his career backwards and start fighting Alexander Brand, Paul Smith or Sullivan Barrera. The boxing public wants to see him fight the best.
Ward is in a tough place right now. He fouled his way to a victory over Kovalev, and now a third fight between them isn’t going doable. The fans are not going to go for a third fight between them, because they’ve seen Kovalev get jacked around in his first 2 fights with the judges in the first fight and then the referee in the second fight. Ward has to fight someone else at light heavyweight if he’s going to remain at 175 while he waits for Anthony Joshua to get freed up.