SAN DIEGO, Aug. 6, 2016 – If Andre Ward wanted a good sparring session and plenty of rounds before his Nov. 19 bout with Sergey Kovalev, he got them against overmatched opponent Alexander Brand of Colombia. It was a shutout unanimous decision, 120 – 108 on all three cards. No question, no controversy. But it doesn’t mean fans should be paying to see it.
If you were busy watching the Olympics or better yet the action on Unimas from Phoenix, here’s all you need to know about Saturday’s fight. Between them, Ward and Brand threw 772 total punches in 12 rounds. Leo Santa Cruz threw 230 more punches all by himself in his bout against Carl Frampton last week.
This is the conundrum with Ward. There is no question Ward is skilled. His hand speed is impressive at light heavyweight. He measures distance to perfection. He lays down a solid foundation of bodywork to slow his opponents down before deploying his powerful left hook.
By a certain point in the fights, perhaps in the sixth or seventh round, fans expect to see a boxer at Ward’s level score a knockdown or at least to put his opponent into serious trouble. While it was clear Brand was not going to win the fight barring divine intervention, he did make it to the end of the fight on his feet and never appeared to be seriously hurt.
Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) did what he needed to do and no more against Brand (25-2, 19 KOs), putting himself in position for the big showdown with the Russian light heavyweight champion Kovalev. It’s true that Ward didn’t need to take any chance of sustaining an injury that might delay this long awaited bout, which tempers any additional criticism.
After the bout, Ward told HBO’s Max Kellerman, “We knew this guy was going to be really really hard to knockout, he’s a veteran … I tried to press it, didn’t get it, but it’s good to get the rounds.”
Does Ward think he’s ready now to face Kovalev, one of the most feared punches in boxing today? “I’ve been doing this 22 years, and if I’m not ready to fight the best now I’ll never be ready.”
Kovalev was ringside for the fight, shown several times grinning like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” with his mother sitting next to him. Kovalev came into the ring after the fight, and HBO made the Nov. 19 meeting date official.
Does Kovalev think Ward is ready, based on what he saw? “I think he’s ready, and I’m ready too … He’s a very great champion. I just want to say, let’s do it Nov. 19 on HBO.”
Ward says he respects Kovalev for where he’s gotten, and given his tough road says Kovalev should get a lot more credit than he has. There were no fireworks and not a lick of trash talk between the two, and fans expecting the sort of invective Kovalev throws toward Adonis Stevenson will be disappointed. These two will do their talking in the ring.
What we don’t know is what sort of conversation the two will have the night of Nov. 19. Ward and Kovalev are at or near the top of most pound for pound lists. Whoever wins in November will likely be considered the world’s best pound for pound boxer by the end of 2016.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. She is owner of the Falcon Valley Group based in San Diego. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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