The last time we saw boxing superstar Andre Ward in the ring, he was busy knocking out Paul Smith of England in his hometown of Oakland.
Ward (28-0, 15 KOs), the two-time world champion and top-rated pound-for-pound fighter, will make his highly anticipated return to the ring on March 26. He will take on undefeated and number one rated IBF light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs) at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, in match which will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing.
Many people in the boxing community are ready to see how Ward looks in his first fight in the light heavyweight division after being the king of the super middleweight division for the last six years.
“I don’t really have much to say other than this: On March 26, it will be very simple. I’ll be in a new weight class against a tough opponent, but I’m coming with the same approach,” said Ward. “I’ll be in great shape and ready for battle. Sullivan Barrera has had a lot to say lately, and I love it. He’s going to have an opportunity to back up every word that he has spoken. These are the type of challenges I like and on March 26, it’s go time.”
Ward’s debut fight as a light heavyweight was supposed to take place on the undercard of the showdown between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez this past November. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist was forced to push back his return and debut in the new weight class due to a knee injury.
With the switch in weight classes, Ward is on a direct collision course with current light heavyweight kingpin Sergey Kovalev. Both Roc Nation Sports (Ward’s promoter) and Main Events (Kovalev’s promoter) have agreed publicly a fight between the two undefeated superstars will happen as long as both fighters continue winning their fights.
In January, Kovalev out punched and out landed the former champion Jean Pascal in a seven round beat down to retain his WBA (Super), IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles.
A big fight with Kovalev is exactly what Ward wants and needs to increase his profile after being virtually inactive over the last three years due to an array of issues.
“I want to be a multi division champion – I talked about that year ago,” Ward said. “He’s just a guy standing in the way. It’s not personal, but I want that light heavyweight title and I’ve been prepared for that long before we made this announcement. We haven’t just start watching Kovalev. We been having our eye on him, knowing that I would move up and that would be something we would do.”
The only thing which could derail the Ward vs. Kovalev showdown, is an upset victory by Barrera who has quietly rose through the ratings of the light heavyweight division. Barrera is coming off a surprising fifth round knockout victory over former light heavyweight world title challenger Karo Murat in December.
As a result, Barrera currently stands in the dominant position of being the No. 1 contender to Kovalev’s IBF belt and then man to introduce Ward to the 175-pound division.
“We, as a team, had a tough choice to make – crash the party by taking out Ward first or wait for the mandatory and take out Kovalev,” said Barrera. “We decided that the time is now. Ward will fall first and then we will go after the belts.”