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Andre Ward a HUGE favorite tonight

Andre Ward


By Dan Ambrose: Andre “S.O.G.” Ward will be a tremendous favorite tonight when he faces Columbian Alexander Brand in a fight televised by HBO Boxing from Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. Bovado has the unbeaten 32-year-old Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) the favorite by the line -10000 to +1600 for the 39-year-old undersized Brand.

It’s not surprising that Ward is the favorite because everything about the match-up guarantees that he wins and wins big in this fight. First off, Brand was selected by Ward’s management from the 168lb division rather than the 175lb division that he’s currently fighting in. Secondly, Brand is small at only 5’10” and possibly even shorter than that compared to the 6’0” Ward.

If that wasn’t enough, Brand is old at 39. He’s about to turn 40 in the next five months. The question that you have to ask is why did Ward’s management select a small, old guy from the super middleweight division rather than a younger, taller fighter from that division or from the 175lb division? It’s hard to answer that question because this entire match-up makes no sense on many levels.

The only thing I can think of is maybe Brand was the only contender willing to agree to the small money that was being offered by Ward’s side for the fight. Brand’s purse for the fight will be just $30,000, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN. Ward’s guaranteed purse is $850,000. When you look at the disparity between the two fighters’ purses for the fight, it kind of makes sense that Brand was the guy that they ended up with, because it’s hard to imagine any contenders agreeing to a purse that much smaller than the one that Ward will be getting for the fight.

For what Brand will be going through tonight, $30K isn’t a lot of money. If the idea was to find a smaller fighter from the super middleweight division to give Ward an advantage in the fight, it would have been nice if Ward’s management had hand-picked someone like Lucian Bute, Rogelio Medina, Jesse Hart, Fedor Chudinov, Zac Dunn or Patrick Nielsen for him to fight rather than Brand.

Those guys would likely never agree to get just $30,000 for a fight against Ward. That would be the sticking point. You’re not going to get one of those guys for just $30K. You get what you pay for in boxing. Hopefully this doesn’t become a standard practice for Ward in the remainder of his career because it would make for bad television on HBO if all the boxing fans are going to be seeing are mismatches involving Ward and over-matched guys like Brand, Paul Smith and Sullivan Barrera.

Brand looked like he didn’t belong on the same stage with Ward at the weigh-in last Friday, because he was so much smaller than him. Ward was literally towering over Brand and glaring at him with a predatory look on his face. Brand didn’t appear happy at all and he didn’t look like motivated. One can only hope that Brand puts up a better fight than how he looked on stage because he had the appearance of someone who didn’t want to be there. It’s such a huge step up in class for Brand at a late point in his career. You don’t like to see mismatches like this because it’s not very sporting. It’s bad for boxing fans to see one-sided fights in main events, especially when they’re designed mismatches like this one.

If Ward gets past Brand tonight, he’ll have punched his ticket for a title shot against IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev on November 19. That fight will be shown on HBO pay-per-view. Tonight’s match between Ward and Brand is a dress rehearsal for the Kovalev contest. Brand is obviously nothing like Kovalev both in talent and size. That’s the weird part about tonight’s fight.

Why did Ward’s management waste their time picking someone who is obviously nothing like Kovalev in size, power, youth and talent? It’s just very troubling. HBO could have put the red light on the Ward vs. Brand fight and insisted that a better opponent be found for Ward before they would agree to televise the fight. After all, it’s HBO’s viewers who they’re supposed to be looking out for.

The boxing fans that pay extra each month for HBO so that they can see entertaining fights, they might not be so happy to see Ward walking out into the ring looking like a giant against a smaller and much older fighter like Alexander Brand. If the fight turns out to be a dull mismatch with Ward winning easily, there will likely be a lot of angry boxing fans wondering why HBO had televised the fight instead of nixing it in favor of a more quality affair between evenly matched fighters.

Ward says he didn’t bother watching Kovalev’s tune-up fight last month against Isaac Chilemba on HBO Championship Boxing. Unlike tonight’s Ward vs. Brand fight, the Kovalev vs. Chilemba fight was a competitive one with both fighters getting their licks in between Kovalev pulled away in the later rounds.

“I’m here to put on the best show possible on television and in the arena. This is going to be my toughest test to date and what could be better than try to beat Andre in his backyard?” said Brand. It’s a privilege to fight one of the best, if not the best. I don’t know if I will come out attacking or if I will counter more. It depends on how Ward will be fighting. But I will be ready. I will capitalize on his mistakes and make him pay.”

It sounds like Brand is just happy to be there with Ward in his fight tonight. Brand hasn’t been fighting world class opposition during his seven-year pro career. Brand’s toughest opponents thus far were Badou Jack and Medzhid Bektemirov. Brand lost to Jack by an eight round split decision in May 2012, and he barely beat Bektemirov by a 10 round split decision last December.

Ward will hang back and look to counter punch and land shots while Brand is coming forward. If Brand doesn’t attack, then Ward will pick him off with jabs and pot shots from the outside all night long to soften him up. We could see an eventual stoppage later in the fight if Brand suffers a cut from the many shots he’s going to be getting hit with.

Prediction

Ward by a 12 round unanimous decision over Brand. I doubt that Ward will press the attack enough for him to get a stoppage win. He’s not like Gennady “GGG” Golovkin with his fighting style. Ward does not like to get hit, so he’s going to play it safe and pot shot rather than put his foot on the accelerator to try and entertain the boxing fans.


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