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Andre Ward wants to fight for heavyweight title

Andre Ward Sergey Kovalev

By Allan Fox: Fresh off his controversial victory over IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) last Saturday night, Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) wants to move up to heavyweight to challenge for a world title in the right “situation before he retires from boxing. Ward isn’t going to move up yet to heavyweight. He has a rematch against Kovalev that he’ll need to get out of the way in early 2017.

Ward reportedly is not interested in taking on the two giant heavyweight champions in WBC champion Deontay Wilder and IBF champion Anthony Joshua. He wants to fight someone else if the opportunity arises. The 6’4” Joseph Parker and 6’3” Andy Ruiz Jr. are about to fight over the vacant WBO heavyweight title.

44-year-old Shannon Briggs will be fighting for the WBA ‘regular’ title in the future at some point once the WBA determines who will be facing him. Perhaps Ward would want to fight one of those guys.

Ward still has to prove that he’s the better fighter than Kovalev, because his controversial 12 round unanimous decision win over him last Saturday night left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of boxing fans. Many of them think Ward lost the fight and was given the decision by three American judges over the Russian Kovalev. Ward won the fight by the scores 114-113, 114-113 and 114-113.

Ward said this via about fighting for a heavyweight title:

“There’s certain guys you don’t mess with and those guys are too big,” Ward said. “I respect them, but you got to find the right opponent and the right situation. So maybe one day, maybe not, but not those two.”

The idea of Ward moving up two divisions to the heavyweight division and getting an immediate world title shot might seem a tad bit unfair to the many contenders in the heavyweight division. It would seem circus-like for Ward to move up from the 175lb division to fight someone that weighs in their 230s like Joseph Parker.

Roy Jones Jr. moved up from the light heavyweight division to beat John Ruiz by a 12 round decision in 2003. Ruiz was considered an easy mark to a lot of boxing fans. The fact that Jones Jr. fought him instead of the likes of Lennox Lewis suggests that it was a cherry picking move.

If Ward is going to try the same thing, he might need to wait a while to get the perfect situation, because even Joseph Parker would be very dangerous for a guy like Ward. The WBA title might wind up in the hands of someone like David Haye or Luis Ortiz. Those are powerful punchers. If Ward was having problems taking Kovalev’s power last Saturday, then how would he handle getting hit by Haye or Ortiz? Ward wouldn’t be able to clinch his way to a 12 round victory like he did last Saturday, because the judges aren’t going to give it to him.

“Listen, I’ve talked about this a lot and I know it sounds crazy. I know it does,” Ward said. “But I feel like I have a Roy Jones-type of situation in me before my career is over. And I have a great guy to do it with, Mackie Shilstone, but it’s got to be the right guy. I’m not going to let my ego get in the way.”

Just when the “right guy” comes along that is vulnerable enough for Ward to beat for a heavyweight title is the big question. Unless someone like Shannon Briggs wins a world title soon, I don’t see there being anyone weak enough for Ward to beat them. It’s doubtful that Briggs will win the WBA title though. If someone decent wins the WBA title, then there’s no chance of Ward ever moving up to beat them. If Ward just wants a big payday in losing a title shot at heavyweight, then he should fight IBF champion Anthony Joshua.

What’s interesting is that Ward would be skipping the cruiserweight division to fight for a world title at heavyweight. You would think that if Ward were serious about wanting to make a real stab at winning a world title, he would try and capture a world title at cruiserweight first before then moving up to heavyweight. The reality is there’s not a lot of money to be made at cruiserweight like there is at heavyweight.

Ward can make a big payday if he moves up to heavyweight and fights for a title. You can argue that it would be a cash out fight for Ward. Even if Ward loses the fight, he would make a ton of money fighting for a world title. If Ward were to fight one of the cruiserweight champions like Oleksandr Usyk or Denis Lebedev, he would be in big time danger against those guys. They can punch, and they’re not easy to get to for clinching like Kovalev. Ward would need to pay the price while coming at those guys.

Lebedev might not be a champion for too much longer. He’s facing the hard hitting Murat Gassiev next month. Gassiev has one-punch power. Ward would likely be out of his league and in great danger against a guy like Gassiev.

Ward thinking about moving up to heavyweight gives you an indication that he recognizes now that there aren’t too many other big money fights out there for him at light heavyweight once he gets past Kovalev in the rematch and possibly Adonis Stevenson if that fight ever gets made. If Ward does fight Stevenson, it would be a very dangerous fight for him, because he’s good even on the inside. But once Kovalev and Stevenson are out of the way, then Ward would be looking at lower money fights against the likes of Artur Beterbeiv and a high number of other fighters that aren’t well known to the casual boxing fans.

The Beterbiev fight could prove to be even more difficult for Ward than Kovalev, because Beterbiev is stronger on the inside and he knows how to fight at close range. Ward might find himself taking a beating by Beterbiev if he doesn’t vacate his IBF/WBO titles if he gets past Kovalev in the rematch. Beterbiev can do everything that Kovalev can do, but he’s a much better inside fighter. If Ward is going to try and wrestle Beterbiev all night, he’s going to get knocked out quickly.

Beterbiev likes to fight on the inside, and he punches incredibly hard in close and at a distance. It won’t be surprising if Ward never fights Beterbiev. I think Ward wanted to move up to light heavyweight for Kovalev, but not necessarily to fight lethal guys like Beterbiev and Stevenson. Kovalev was always going to be vulnerable to a guy like Ward, because he can’t fight on the inside like Stevenson and Beterbiev can.

I think Ward will vacate his titles if he beats Kovalev in the rematch. Ward will then likely move up to heavyweight to try and go after one of those belts. Of course, Ward could maybe get a voluntary defense or two of his titles against weak fringe level fighters before he vacates his titles. But I do not see Ward ever fighting Beterbiev or Stevenson. Those guys don’t have the flaws in their games that Ward could exploit like Kovalev.

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