Showtime let Ward (25-0, 13 KO) become one of few to enter the highly publicized Super Six Tournament to create a superstar. Ward emerged undefeated and the winner of that tournament.
His biggest rival, undefeated Lucian Bute (30-0, 24 KO), is busy fighting on May 26 against Carl Froch (28-2, 20 KO), the man Ward (25-0, 13 KO) defeated in the finals of the Super Six Tournament.
Showtime overlooked Bute when selecting fighters for the tournament. A three-fight exclusivity deal was meant to secure Bute for the tournament winner, which turned out to be Ward.
By going to HBO, where a Bute fight may become all but impossible, Ward runs the risk of damaging all the hard work he's made in the super middleweight (168 lbs) division.
Ward also says he doesn't want to fight Anthony Dirrell (24-0, 21 KO), the mandatory challenger for his WBC belt. Ward would rather vacate the belt to go for a bigger fight.
HBO has no clout with the super middleweight fighters, Showtime has that market on lockdown. Ward would likely have to move up a division to face any lucrative competition.
Up north in the light heavyweight (175 lbs) division, legendary Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KO), Canadian attraction Jean Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KO) and English attraction Nathan Cleverly (24-0, 11 KO) can make for million-dollar paydays.
The only problem is Ward would likely have to travel. Ward fought most of his fights during the Super Six in his hometown of Oakland and had to be begged just to fight Froch on neutral American territory.
Ward's audience in Oakland may be decent, but Pascal's attraction in Montreal is what led to sold-out crowds against Hopkins.
Ward's reluctance to fight outside of Oakland won't land him the big million-dollar paydays he seeks. His only option left is Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KO), if Dawson defeats Hopkins on April 28.
Leaving the super middleweight division isn't something Ward should do, HBO won't cater to Ward like Showtime has.
HBO has a lot more stars than Showtime. Though they have a big budget, there are limits to everything, even HBO's pocketbook.
Showtime's pockets may not be as deep, but they've invested too much money, time and energy into making Ward into what he is today. They'll give him more money if that's what he wants.
Ward was meant to fight Andre Dirrell (20-1, 14 KO) two years ago during the tournament, but disagreements halted that fight.
Ward grew up in the amateurs with the Dirrell brothers, so there may be some hesitation from Ward to fight them.
What's unfortunate for Ward in that situation is that unless their bond is bound by blood, the history books will be harsh on him for not fighting them.
Unless Bute loses badly to Froch, the history books will say Ward should have fought Bute as well. Though Ward may be tempted to leave Showtime, his best bet may be to stay where he is.
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