Andre Ward has been on the shelf since September of last year when he put on a dazzling display of boxing skills and power as he pounded and stopped light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson. His scheduled fight with Kelly Pavlik was canceled due to a shoulder injury Ward suffered in camp. Since then, he's been rehabbing and looking forward to his return to the ring. The biggest question is who will the undefeated champion fight next?
Pavlik abruptly retired, so we can cross him off the list. Ward has largely cleaned out his division, and rematches with Carl Froch or Mikkel Kessler just don't seem very enticing at this point. He has outclassed and easily defeated everyone he's taken on, so we'll take a look now at who is left, and who would be the most compelling match.
Ward vs. Bute was a proposed fight that had fight fans salivating. While Ward was stockpiling victories over quality opponents with relative ease, Bute was destroying everything in his path. They were considered one and two in their division and their fight would have been a highly anticipated affair. That all went out the window when Carl Froch vaporized Bute in a shockingly one-sided fight in England last May.
The fight is still intriguing however, especially if Bute can get past Jean Pascal. Styles make fights, and Ward doesn't fight the same way Froch does. The hard-hitting southpaw Bute might be able to succeed in penetrating Ward's excellent defense.
This would probably be a difficult fight to make, as Ward is the undefeated champ, but Bute is the bigger draw, especially in his adopted homeland of Canada. A fight there would be a massive spectacle, but would Ward face Bute in his back yard?
How about pitting the lineal middleweight king against the super middleweight champion? As much as the idea of these two fighting has us drooling, it's tough to envision it happening. Martinez is really a blown up junior middleweight, so going even further up seems out of the question. It also appears like he's on the shelf for the rest of the year after suffering multiple injuries last Saturday night. As for Ward, he probably isn't keen on the idea of dropping down in weight.
One would assume Martinez would not be comfortable fighting at 168 and giving away several pounds to a guy who has proven to be one of the best fighters in the world. But there is one important fact—neither has a marquee match up waiting for him. A fight between two highly skilled champions is never a bad thing, and it would do big business. Both men have cleaned out their respective divisions; perhaps it's time they look to one another to provide the mega fight they both deserve.
Chavez Jr. may look like he's nine years old, but he can fight. He's also a very big guy. He's currently a middleweight, but with his size, weight troubles and penchant for smoking the reefer, that probably isn't going to be his division for much longer. He was badly beaten in September by Martinez, but he also showed that he's got resilience. He was possibly seconds away from scoring a massive come from behind knockout, just like his father did against Meldrick Taylor 20 years ago.
Chavez also has a massive following, and while Ward has many fans, Chavez is already the bigger star. Big names equal big money, and that's what both men are looking for. The Mexican star could easily move up to fight for the title, and while he'd be a heavy underdog, it would be a compelling bout.
Triple G currently resides in the middleweight division, where he has been busy hammering on other fighters with ease. His immense power has made him one of the hottest prospects to come around in some time. He also smiles an awful lot while he's winging bombs, which makes you wonder if he's really excited about fighting, or if he's stowing bodies under his floor boards. This guy is touched.
He's probably too green at this point to get in there with a fighter of Ward's skill, but wouldn't it be fun seeing how Ward would handle the kid with cement blocks for fists? Besides, it's not like Golovkin is going to one day morph into a controlled boxer. He is now what he always will be, a brawler who uses offense as his defense. Would Ward break him down the way he did with Carl Froch or would Golovkin be able to slip one by that tight defense and rock the champion?
It's amazing that a guy who is old enough to be Ward's father is probably his most intriguing option. Currently at light heavyweight, Hopkins just got through embarrassing Tavoris Cloud, easily defeating the much younger lion by using his ring smarts and ever-present skills. Hopkins' ability to eliminate his opponent's best weapon is the stuff of legend.
Ward would be the favorite, but you can't ever count out Hopkins. He'd make the fight ugly and he'd do his best to smother Ward's offense. True, the fight would probably be the equivalent of watching an obese man self-administer a prostrate exam, but it would be historic nevertheless.
Ward was part of HBO's broadcast team when Hopkins schooled Cloud, and Hopkins apparently told Ward after the fight that he'd never fight him. Money has a way of changing one's mind, and Hopkins is no different than anyone else—if the price is right, we think he'd make an exception.
Andre Ward has become one of the best fighters in the world. He entered Showtime's Super Six tournament as a heavy underdog and emerged its champion, and he's only gotten better since. At 26-0, he's firmly planted himself right behind Floyd Mayweather as the number two pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The truth is that he's become a compelling fighter regardless of match up, but the better fighters bring out the best in Ward.