On June 17, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev will meet in a rematch of from last year. Their first bout was the most important bout of 2016 and this will be the most important of 2017. Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul Alvarez might get more attention, but Ward and Kovalev are the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world right now.
The winner will walk away the reigning pound-for-pound king. So who should he fight next?
1. The Loser
Last time out, Ward won 114-113 on all three cards. It’s a mistake to call that a robbery, but it was certainly a hotly disputed decision, and with good reason. A fight that close and well-fought has to be hotly debated. For myself, I each man winning six rounds, with Kovalev getting the nod by virtue of his early knockdown.
If Kovalev evens the score this time, a rubbermatch will be all but mandatory. Even if Ward squeaks out another close, debated decision (a good bet), a third bout might remain the best option for both men.
2. Adonis Stevenson
If no third fight takes place between Kovalev and Ward, the winner of this next bout has got to fight Adonis Stevenson, so long as Stevenson has the stones to climb in the ring with him. The lineal light heavyweight champion avoided Kovalev for most of the past four years.
3. Artur Beterbiev
Beterbiev is a two-time Olympian and won a world amateur championship in 2009. He was also a rival to Kovalev in the Russian amateur ranks. Now 11-0 with 11 KOs, he is one of the sport’s hottest rising contenders.
4. Oleksandr Gvozdyk
The Ukrainian won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. He is now 13-0 with 11 KOs. His April 2016 KO of Nadjib Mohammedi was one of the most picture-perfect knockouts of the year. Last April he looked spectacular, stopping tough contender Yunieski Gonzalez in Round 3.