By Allan Fox: Carl Froch believes that Andre ‘SOG’ Ward’s decision to hang up his gloves recently was influenced by the emergence of the young Russian knockout artist Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs).
Ward, 33, recently pulled a real shocking moving in vacating his IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight titles and retiring from boxing. At the time Ward retired, the World Boxing Association was on the verge of ordering him to defend against interim WBA 175 lb. champion Bivol, who had been the interim champion since February of 2017.
Bivol would be a very tough fight for Ward to take right now. With Bivol’s tremendous power in either hand, Ward would need to absorb a lot of heavy shots to try and beat him by a decision or a knockout. It’s likely that Ward would smother Bivol on the inside the way he did Sergey Kovalev in their 2 fights, but it’s questionable whether that tactic would work.
Had Ward not vacated his WBA title, he would have had to face Bivol. Likewise, Ward would have had to face Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs) to defend his IBF light heavyweight belt against the 2-time Russian Olympian. Beterbiev was scheduled to face Enrico Koelling for the IBF 175-pound mandatory spot, which he won by a 12th round knockout. But with Ward vacating his IBF title, Beterbiev became the IBF light heavyweight champion instead of Ward’s mandatory for that belt.
Did Ward vacate to avoid the fight with the dangerous punching Beterbiev or did he simply not want to fight any longer? Only Ward knows the answer to that question. If Ward did retire to avoid facing Bivol and Beterbiev in what would have been back to back fights, you can’t blame Ward for doing that. You can argue that Bivol and Betebiev are the equivalent of murderer’s row in boxing terms. Those guys are dangerous punchers, as their records show. 12 guys have faced Beterbiev, and 12 guys have been knocked out by him. Some think Beterbiev is the hardest puncher in the 175-lb. weight class.
”I have a feeling Bivol helped Andre Ward make his retirement decision and I don’t say it very often, but I’ve seen something in Bivol that I wouldn’t want to stand in front of,” said Froch to skysports.com. ”Dmitry Bivol announced himself to the World with a brutal first round one punch knockout win against Trent Broadhurst.”
Some boxing fans might think Froch is giving Ward grief bout him retiring rather than taking the fight with Bivol due to personal reasons. Froch lost to Ward by a 12 round unanimous decision in the finals of Showtime’s Super Six tournament in December 17, 2011. Ward did a lot of smothering on the inside to keep Froch from getting his shots off. Froch didn’t like the way that Ward spoiled for much of the fight, and he let the boxing fans know about it afterward. To this day, Froch calls Ward a “boring” fighter due to his style of fighting, which sometimes involves a lot of grappling on the inside. Ward certainly grappled frequently with Froch to keep him from getting his shots off. When there was distance between the two fighters, Froch was getting the better of Ward much of the time.
Bivol knocked Broadhurst out with a 1-punch right hand knockout in a 1st round knockout in his last fight on November 4. That was Bivol’s first defense of his WBA light heavyweight title. That should have been a fight between Bivol and Ward if ‘SOG’ was still the WBA 175lb title holder.
”I think Dmitry Bivol is going to be great,” said Froch. ”He has a cool and calm demeanor and he oozes confidence, but not arrogant or nonchalant, he is just relaxed. He is so precise, so accurate with his work, he’s lethal. Put him in with Sergey Kovalev down the line and you will see how good he is,” said Froch.
Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KOs) appears to be back in the milking stage of his career following his 2 defeats at the hands of Ward. Figuratively speaking, the probability in future terms of the 34-year-old Kovalev deciding upon a match with the 26-year-old Bivol are not high currently. Since Kovalev’s 2 losses to Ward, he’s had an easy fight against fringe contender Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title last November.
Kovalev won that contest by a 2nd round knockout. Kovalev is now set to fight another beatable contender in Igor Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KOs) on March 3. That’ll be Kovalev’s first title defense of his WBO belt. Before you get too excited about Mikhalkin after looking at his nice record, you need to look at who he was beaten by in the past. Mikhalkin lost to Aleksy Kuziemsky in 2010. Kuziemsky has been blown out in stoppage losses to Juergen Braehmer and Dmitry Sukhotskiy. This is the same Sukhotskiy that Adonis Stevenson destroyed in 5 rounds in 2014. Kovalev is 34 now. He might not have enough youth left for him to deal with a fighter like Bivol. Of course, we might not ever get a chance to find out if Kovalev decides never to take the fight.
Bivol will be making his second defense of his WBA title against mandatory challenger Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs) on March 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York. This impending match-up will show what Bivol is made of. If Bivol can beat back the Barrera test and keep his momentum going, it’s going to send a message to the rest of the 175-lb. division that we may have the new king of the hill.
There’s a chance that Ward could come out of retirement. HBO commentator Max Kellerman recently remarked that he thinks that Ward could return to the sport and resume his career. Ward would likely continue to fight at light heavyweight rather than move up to cruiserweight and find himself out-sized by the bigger, and stronger fighters in that weight class.