By Allan Fox: Max Kellerman of HBO suspects that former 2 division world champion Andre ‘SOG’ Ward will soon be coming out of retirement to resume his boxing career. Ward, 33, recently retired from the sport after beating Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev by an 8th round knockout in their rematch on HBO pay-per-view on June 17 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After the win, Ward decided he’d rather retire from the sport rather than continuing his career. In walking away from the sport, Ward vacated his IBF, WBA and WBO 175 lb. titles. The 3 vacant titles have subsequently been snatched up by Dmitry Bivol [WBA], Artur Beterbiev [IBF] and Kovalev [WBO].
Ward will be turning 34-years-old on February 23, 2018. If Ward is going to resume his career, it’s likely that he’ll go after one of his light heavyweight titles that he gave up. Ward hasn’t seemed too eager to fight WBC 175 lb. champion Adonis Stevenson. That means Ward would likely go after Bivol, Beterbiev or Kovalev. With Ward having fought Kovalev twice, it’s doubtful that he’ll want to bother facing him again. The boxing public has already gotten their fill of Ward-Kovalev fighting each other.
It would be time for Ward to bring some new blood by fighting Bivol or Beterbiev rather than taking on Kovalev in a retread fight that few boxing fans want to see at this point.
“The most illuminating thing he said is he’s taking on the challenge of retirement,” said Kellerman to HBO’s Fight Game in discussing Ward’s recent retirement from boxing. “The way he was talking about how tough retirement was made me think, ‘he might fight again. He looks like he wants to fight again. Andre Ward has achieved what he’s achieved in his life by taking on fight after fight,” said Kellerman.
Ward would probably get a fair amount of attention of he fought Dmitry Bivol. Beterbiev is a good fighter as well, but he’s had injury and promotional problems that has prevented him from fighting on a routine basis in the last year. Beterbiev is dealing with promotional issues that has hi on the shelf right now.
”He sees his life and challenges as fights that he has to prepare for and win and I suspect that’s how he’s treating his retirement,” said Kellerman. ”It makes me think he will come back,” said Kellerman.
These are the options for Andre Ward if he resumes his boxing career in 2018:
• Dmitry Bivol – This would be a fight merely for achievement for Ward rather than for money. Bivol, 26, isn’t a big name in boxing at this time. He’s just starting his career out at the pro level, and he has a lot of punching power. He’s arguably not as big a puncher as Beterbiev, but he’s younger and dangerous for someone like Ward
• Artur Beterbiev A big puncher, perhaps the strongest in the division. Beterbiev doesn’t have the popularity needed for Ward to make a lot of money fighting him. There’s risk for Ward in facing a big puncher like Beterbiev, because he’s got a lot of power and he’s a good inside fighter
• Sergey Kovalev – Ward can probably still make more money fighting Kovalev again, as he’s the most recognizable of the light heavyweight champions. Nonetheless, the fans have already seen Mayweather fight Kovalev twice. It would look like a money grab if he were to fight him now.
• Adonis Stevenson – Ward won’t fight Stevenson. There’s no interest in that fight
• Aleksandr Usyk -This might be too much of a challenge by Ward. Usyk fights at cruiserweight, and he’s expected by some to win the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
• Tony Bellew – This would be a good money fight for Ward if Bellew was free. Bellew isn’t right now. He’s scheduled to fight David Haye in the first quarter of 2018 in a rematch.
• Anthony Joshua – This would make Ward a lot of money if he can get the fight which is unlikely. Joshua might not have any free time to fight Ward until 2019 at the earliest
If Ward decides he wants to make a comeback for money only, then he’s going to need to see if his manager can get him a fight with either Joshua or Bellew (29-2-1, 19 KOs). Those are good money fights for Ward. He would probably need to take 1 to 2 stay busy fights while he waits for one of those two fighters to free up, so he can face them. Joshua is booked pretty much for the entire year in 2018. Bellew has a dangerous rematch with Haye on May 5. Bellew might lose that fight, and possibly by a knockout.
Ideally, if Ward is going to make a comeback in 2018. He’ll be coming back to go after one of his light heavyweight titles, because he’s not going to beat the likes of Usyk, Joshua or possibly not even Bellew either. Ward would be at a size and power disadvantage with all of them. Ward can’t mug them in the same way he did with Kovalev by talking the fight to the inside and wrestling them all night long.
Bivol hits hard, as does Beterbiev. I’m not sure that Ward would be able to mug them in the same way he did the 34-year-old Kovalev. Bivol is too young to be worn down by grappling, and Beterbiev has a superb inside game that could be a nightmare for Ward. I’d hate to see Ward make a comeback and wind up getting knocked out by Beterbiev or Bivol.
Ward appeared to lose his first fight with Kovalev last year in November. Ward was very lucky the 3 judges gave him the narrow 12 round unanimous decision victory, because he didn’t look like he deserved the win in the eyes of the boxing public.
The Ward-Kovalev rematch was completely tainted due to Ward landing low blows in the finale sequence of the fight. The referee Tony Weeks made 2 arguably bad decisions in stopping the fight. The first mistake was Weeks stopping the fight after Ward appeared to hit Kovalev 3 times consecutively with low blows. The second mistake ward Weeks not asking for the stoppage to be reviewed to see if the punches were low. If nothing else, Weeks should have asked for the stoppage to be reviewed so he could cover himself for him stopping the fight. Of course, if the review showed that Weeks had made a blunder, then that would have made him look bad. But at least the fight would have had a result that couldn’t be questioned the way it is now.