Friday, March 24, 2023  |



Andre Ward: I’m chasing greatness

Photo by: Tom Hogan

LAS VEAGS – Andre Ward has waited a long time for this moment.

It’s hard to believe that the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, former unified super middleweight champion and one of the pound-for-pound best boxers in the world today has yet to have his moment in Las Vegas.

In Andre Ward’s 12-year career, he has yet to box under the neon lights of Sin City. But he’ll finally get his opportunity to put his stamp on the Boxing Capital of the World when he faces Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 knockouts) at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday for what will likely be the top spot on boxing’s pound-for-pound list.

“What better time than this to fight in Vegas for the first time?” Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) asked earlier this week.

He’s been coming to Vegas for years dating back to Floyd Mayweather’s second fight with Jose Luis Castillo back in 2002. It’s almost mindboggling how he has yet to compete here. But that ends now and it might be the perfect time for his coming out party.

“I always pushed to fight here but one reason or another it didn’t work out. It’s a good thing that it’s happening now.”

Ever since winning the Super Six World Boxing Classic in 2011 and subsequent decimation of Chad Dawson a year later, Ward’s career has hit a rather frustrating five-year stretch. Between injuries and disputing with the late-Dan Goosen, Ward’s fans have been critical about his lack of action, both in and out of the ring. When he inked a deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation sports in 2015, there was hope that Ward would finally get the recognition he deserved. A fight with Kovalev was announced for 2016 but fans were forced to sit through a string of fights with underwhelming competition with the likes of Paul Smith, Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand.

It’s a decision that Ward defends and compares himself to being in a similar situation that Roy Jones Jr. found himself in during his career.

“I needed to find the right opponent where people would want to come from all over the country to see you fight,” Ward said. “Roy Jones destroyed everyone in front of him but got a lot of criticism for not going to Germany and fighting certain people. But your era is your era and you can only fight who is there. Mayweather is successful because he’s had great rivals. You have to take what you get.”

Essentially, boxing fans have had to be patient with Ward. Some will say he squandered all of the momentum he built during the Super Six tournament and against Dawson, but he’s confident that the patience will pay off against Kovalev and pound for pound supremacy will finally be his. It’s a lofty challenge as Krusher has decimated everything in front of him. Over the course of the past half-decade, Kovalev rose to prominence with dominating performances against the likes of Jean Pascal, Nathan Cleverly, Ismail Sillakh and Bernard Hopkins. The Russian has singlehandedly brought the light heavyweight division back to life.

Ward will climb up in weight to challenge the man who has rolled over the competition in a fight that is easily a 50-50 coin flip due to their respective strengths. Both unbeaten and a notch above the rest, this fight is essentially what Mayweather-Pacquiao should have been if they fought in 2010 instead of 2015, minus the hype, of course.

But Ward knows what he is up against and is more than willing to prove that he belongs in boxing’s kingdom of greats.

“I’m after greatness,” Ward said. “I’ve accomplished a great deal throughout my career. But I’ve been watching guys like Leonard, Hagler, Duran and Hearns. Those guys chased greatness. Boxing is about settling who is the best in front of the whole world.”

As for the pound-for-pound throne, it’s something that Ward has thought about often but didn’t consume himself with.

“I can have my opinion behind closed doors and feel how I feel but until I get that spot what good does it do for me to throw somebody under the bus just to say that I should be in that position?” Ward said about his previous pound-for-pound rankings. “I don’t roll like that. I just keep working. There were times in my career where I thought I could have had that top spot. I’ve been as high as No. 2 and I can’t argue with Floyd being No. 1. You gotta accept that. This win will take care of itself.”

If Ward takes care of business in Las Vegas, it will be hard to continue to be critical of his career. He will have finally proved his worth on a grand scale and simply cannot be denied as one of the most decorated boxers in recent memory.