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Ward’s trainer says they’re targeting Anthony Joshua

Image: Ward’s trainer says they're targeting Anthony Joshua

By Allan Fox: Andre “SOG” Ward will be targeting a title shot against heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua when he moves up to heavyweight in the near future, according to trainer Virgil Hunter. Ward, 33, would be going after the perceived best heavyweight in the division, and in Hunter’s opinion, Joshua is the best fighter in the division right now.

Unfortunately for boxing fans, Joshua hasn’t established yet that he’s the best heavyweight. He still needs to beat WBC champion Deontay Wilder and WBO champion Joseph Parker before he can confirm as the best fighter in the heavyweight division. I don’t think that’s what this is about. Joshua is probably the best MONEY fight for Andre Ward out of the three heavyweight champions.

I think that’s what Hunter is really talking about. It’s not about Ward targeting the best heavyweight. I think it’s more about targeting the biggest payday of the three. Joshua is a pay-per-view fighter in his home country in the UK.

The problem is, Joshua is not free to fight Andre Ward right now and give him a free shot at his titles. Joshua has at least 3 fights he needs to get out of the way before he can start thinking about giving Ward a title shot. Joshua has a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko that will likely be taking place in November. Joshua also has to defend against his IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.

That’s a fight that Joshua must take unless he wants to be stripped of the title by the International Boxing Federation. After those two fights, Joshua wants to unify the title by facing either Parker or Wilder. You would have to assume that the unification fights would come first for Joshua over giving a light heavyweight like Ward a title shot.

We could be talking about Joshua fighting 4 times before he can get around to fighting Ward. That’s bad news if you’re Ward, as he’s going to need to keep busy. He can’t sit for a 1 ½ to 2 years waiting for a title shot against Joshua. Ward is saying that a fight against WBC Emeritus cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew is an option. Ward wants to make sure that Bellew’s WBC title is on the line. For boxing fans unaware, Bellew is no longer the WBC cruiserweight champion.

Mairis Briedis is now the WBC champion after he won the vacant WBC title beating Marco Huck. Bellew hasn’t anything about wanting to fight Briedis, which isn’t surprising because he’s someone that is a true cruiserweight and a very good one at that. The guys that Bellew has beaten at cruiserweight have been flawed fighters like Nathan Cleverly, Ilunga Makaku, BJ Flores, Mateus Masternak, Ivica Bacurin, Julio Cesar Dos Santos and Varley Brudov. Bellew hasn’t taken on the really talented fighters at cruiserweight.

“Well, I mean the heavyweight that we would target would be the best — is what the world considers the best — would be [Anthony] Joshua,” said Hunter to Fighthub in talking about Ward wanting the Joshua fight. ”And that in itself would be tremendous intrigue and it would be insane. But it’s something that has to be done and if it’s accepted…why not? Yeah, why not? You know, I’ll keep a towel in my hand.”

Hunter says Ward has maybe 2 more fights left before he retires from the sport. If that’s true, then it looks like he’s not going to be around to get a title shot against Joshua, because that fight is not going to take place 2017and it’s not going to happen at the start of 2018. Ward is going to need to keep busy while he waits for Joshua to get free so that he can give him a voluntary defense.

Joshua isn’t going to wait until Ward becomes his #1 challenger at heavyweight, considering that’s not what Hunter is talking about. Hunter likely wants Ward to get a title shot without him fighting for the spot. He just wants Ward to get a title shot given to him based on his popularity and accomplishments at 168 and 175.

In the best possible world, Ward will beat Bellew at cruiserweight and then move up to heavyweight and fight someone like Luis Ortiz in order to earn the title shot with Joshua. I don’t think that’s what Ward is going to be doing. He may fight Bellew, but he won’t go after a dangerous contender like the 6’4” Luis Ortiz. That would be crazy.

If Ward decides to keep his light heavyweight titles while he waits for his title shot against Joshua, then he’ll likely be ordered to fight Artur Beterbiev or Dmitry Bivol. Beterbiev is one fight away from becoming Ward #1 IBF mandatory challenger. If Ward has to fight Beterbiev or Bivol he could lose to one or both of them.

”Physically, I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve always encouraged him to get out when you’re on top,” said Hunter. ”A lot of people don’t think that’s possible but he’s been very smart and very disciplined about his money and he’s set for life so I’d like to see him get out on top.”

Ward is definitely not the fighter that he once was 6 years ago in the Super Six tournament. He’s slowed down, and he’s now mostly an inside fighter. Ward wasn’t dominating in his last two fights against Sergey Kovalev when the action was on the outside. Ward was at his best when he was in close. Look at how his second fight with Kovalev ended. They ended with Ward appearing to hit him with low blows on the inside.

A fighter that is only capable of fighting on the inside is going to have problems against guys like Bivol or Beterbiev. That’s why you can argue that Ward is in a bind if he has to defend his light heavyweight titles against Beterbiev or Bivol. Those guys are powerful and big. They would be a nightmare for Ward on the inside. If all Ward can do is throw pot shots from the outside, he’s not going to beat Beterbiev and Bivol. That’s why you can argue that it’s important that Ward gets his fight against Joshua soon before he has to fight the likes of Beterbiev or Bivol. If Ward loses to one of those guys, then he’s going to miss out on a title shot against Joshua.

I can’t see Joshua fighting Ward if he’s beaten by Beterbiev or Bivol. Moving up to fight Bellew for his Emeritus WBC title would still leave Ward with a lot of time on his hands before Joshua would fight him. Does Ward defend the Emeritus belt? I think that would look funny, because Briedis is the current WBC champion at cruiserweight. Ward would look like he’s holding onto a paper title if he wins the Emeritus strap rather than the one being held by Briedis.

“If I had to twist my own arm I’d say maybe a couple more fights after this and I’ll encourage him – why fight anymore?” said Hunter about Ward. “So time will tell, he just turned 33, he has no wear and tear from boxing…so, light heavyweight, bigger men last a little longer so I think maybe we’ll make a run for a heavyweight shot and see how that turns out and then maybe step down from there.”

If Ward is going to make a run for a heavyweight title, he should think about making it now rather than wasting time fighting Bellew for his Emeritus title. Ward should move up in weight and take on a heavyweight like Luis Ortiz or Dillian Whyte. If Ward beat one of those guys, the boxing public would be excited at the thought of him getting a crack at Joshua’s two heavyweight titles. Ward would have earned the title shot instead of having it given to him, which would be the case if he moves up to heavyweight after he beats Bellew.

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