Between May 2009 and September 2012, Andre Ward established himself as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet. It started when he faced rough, former title-challenger Edison Miranda, his first major step up in competition. Ward captured an easy decision.
That set him up for a spot in the Showtime Super Six, Super Middleweight Tournament. This historical event brought together most of the top 168-pound fighters in the world. Current and former champions like Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch and Jermain Taylor were brought in. Ward was not viewed as a favorite, but he handled the field with startling ease. He ended 2011 as the WBA and WBC champion, universally hailed as the Fighter of the Year.
In September 2012, Ward smashed light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson by Round 10 TKO. At the time, many observers moved him behind only Floyd Mayweather on the mythical pound-for-pound rankings. It seemed as if he was at the start of something great.
But all that outstanding momentum came to a halt due to legal disputes with his promoters. Between the Dawson fight in September 2012 and June 2015, he fought just once.
But Ward’s easy handling of tough Cuban contender Sullivan Barrera last March demonstrated that he still has the same rare talent as he did five years ago. He’s still just 32. And he’s already set to face Sergey Kovalev later this year, in what will be the most important fight of 2016. Kovalev has emerged as one of the sport’s biggest stars during Ward’s period of inactivity. Their fight will be a showdown between two of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
And unlike last year’s money grab between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, Ward and Kovalev are both still at the height of their powers.
Ward does have business to take care of first, of course. This weekend he faces Alexander Brand in Oakland. Brand has a 25-1 record, but lost to the only name opponent he faced, Badou Jack, in 2012. This is a stay-busy fight for Ward. It will give him one last chance to get sharp before taking on Kovalev, a legitimate monster.