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Roach: Andre Ward was hurt by 2-year layoff more than we think

Andre Ward

By Allan Fox: Trainer Freddie Roach thinks unbeaten former super middleweight champion Andre “SOG” Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) has lost something from his game due to his two-year layoff from 2013 to 2015.

Ward was out of the ring for that period of time because of promotional problems with his former promoter. Roach says that Ward wasn’t in the gym during that time frame keeping active. When he did come back last year against Paul Smith, he didn’t look that sharp, according to Roach.

Ward also didn’t look that good in his last fight against Sullivan Barrera last March in beating the 34-year-old Cuban fighter by a wide 12 round decision.

“I’m not sure that Ward’s two-year layoff didn’t hurt him more than we think, even though his next opponent the Russian Kovalev didn’t look that good in his last fight the other night,” said Roach to “Ward hasn’t looked that great in his last two comeback fights, to be honest with you. So I’m kind of anxious to see how this two-year layoff might have hurt him more than he realizes, because two years is a long time. He wasn’t in the gym. He was announcing on TV. Come on,” said Roach.

I happen to agree with Roach about Ward not looking like the same fighter that he once was in the past. I think Ward has lost a great deal from his game, and that’s expected because you can’t sit out of the ring for as long as he did and expect to be the same fighter. I didn’t see any improvement in Ward in his last fight against Barrera. If anything, it think Ward appeared worse in his last fight against Barrera than he had in his previous fight against Paul Smith. This suggests that Ward is not going to be able to come back fully to become the fighter that he was in the past.

It’s not just two years that Ward lost. He lost more than two years of his career. Roach is being kind by saying it was just two years. Ward basically stopped being a fully active fighter after 2011. After Ward won the Super Six tournament in December 2011, he fought only once in 2012 and 2013. Ward became a part time fighter from 2012.

You can say that Ward has lost four years of his career, not just two. Even if Ward was a heavyweight, it would be very hard for him to recapture the form that he had before his departure from the game. Look former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. He lost four years of the prime of his career and he was never the same fighter again when he did return. Ali was still a good fighter, but there was a huge difference after he came back to what he was before.

When asked if Ward is the No.1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, Roach said, “No. His last two performances do not equal that, no. I mean, let’s face it; he was okay but not that great,” said Roach.

Ward will be fighting next month in an interim fight against slugger Alexander Brand (25-1, 19 KOs) on August 6 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. California. If Ward wins that fight, then he’ll be facing IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev on December 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While there are some boxing fans that think that Ward still has enough left to beat Kovalev, I’m not one of them. I think Ward has lost too much from his game for him to defeat the Russian fighter, because he has too many offensive skills for Ward to deal with. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ward loses to Brand next month, because that’s going to be a tougher fight than many boxing fans suspect it to be. Brand is faster than Barrera and hits every bit as hard. Ward is going to need to be able to show some of the skills that he once had if he doesn’t want to be exposed as an aging fighter that no longer is the fighter that he once was.

If you look at what Barrera did wrong against Ward last March, he failed to continue to throw punches when he was in close. Ward was able to pot shot him on the outside. Barrera would then attack him and miss with one or two shots and then stop throwing while in close. If Barrera had kept throwing shots once he got close to Ward, he would have given him a real pounding in that fight.

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