ANDRE WARD is chasing greatness and has confirmed that he wants a showdown with ferocious world light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. Speaking inside the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, the affable star also revealed that he didn’t believe a fight against Gennady Golovkin will happen, despite pursuing that contest in the past.
The former super-middleweight king, who was due to fight on the undercard of Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez until a swollen knee ruled him out, has recently signed a “lucrative” three-fight deal with Roc Nation, and hopes the final contest of that agreement will be against Kovalev.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Ward said about beating the fearsome 175lb king. “From a technical standpoint he’s going to be who he has always been and that’s good enough for him. I don’t think he’s seen a fight that he didn’t like [didn’t want to take]. He’s like, ‘Let’s go’. And that’s a dangerous individual. I feel like there is purpose in this move up to 175 and to put it as simply as I can, I just want to be great. All the greats did what I’m doing. Bernard [Hopkins] did it [moved up in weight]. Floyd [Mayweather] did it. Roy [Jones] did it. And many others outside of them did it. It is a risk and whether I get credit for it or not is not important, it’s about knowing that I took that leap.
“The deal I signed [with Roc Nation] is very lucrative but that aside, it’s about my legacy,” Ward continued. “It is about cementing my legacy because I’m not going to box forever, nor can I, nor do I want to. So these are the chances I’ve got to take. But I’m not going in there just hoping I get by, I’m going to bring it, the way that I bring it. Hey, people say I have a bullseye on my back, but I’m looking at the same guy who’s looking at me and they’re pointing at me. I’ve got my sights on them and they’ve got their sights on me. We’ve just got to see what happens.
“I think this fight [with Kovalev] will be one of the best fights that boxing has seen in a long time. How good? I don’t know. The matchup on paper, his résumé and my résumé, it has the makings of a great fight and now we’ve got to get out there and make it happen.”
Ward’s progress over the last two years has been slowed by injuries and a lawsuit with deceased promoter, Dan Goossen. During that time, the career of middleweight terror Gennady Golovkin gathered pace and resulted in many fans calling for a showdown with the then-super middleweight No.1.
“That wasn’t going to be an easy fight for me,” the 31-year-old said about ‘GGG’. “He’s a good fighter. But look at his résumé, it’s about levels. Is he really that good? We don’t know. He don’t even know how good he is and none of us do until you’ve faced a certain level of competition. I wanted that fight for the sport of boxing because wherever I went, that was the name that I heard that people wanted me to fight. I didn’t have the luxury to come up with some excuses. I put my best foot forward [to try and make that fight] and to this day I still get asked, ‘Did you really want to fight him?’ I put it out there as many times as I could [that I wanted that fight]. It’s unfortunate that boxing missed that fight. But we’ll survive. We’ll move on. It happens.”
Ward has grown tired of the criticisms surrounding his layoff, and fighting style, but has grown to understand that the things that matter in life are those closest to you, like his wife, his children, and his friends. He revealed he was ready to walk away from the sport recently, and even brought up a draft of his retirement speech on his phone to show reporters.
The gifted stylist – often accused of being a negative fighter – has been aware of the bitterness from certain sections of the media, and public, since his 2009 breakout win over the heavily favoured Mikkel Kessler.
“It was the biggest fight of my life and then I’m reading things that I was a dirty fighter,” Ward recalled. “I was reading things that I didn’t like. It was the same guy [writer] who said I didn’t have a shot who was then saying I won because I was fighting dirty? This was my moment. They threw me to the wolves and I showed them that I could fight back and I beat him [Kessler], but I’m reading it was because of this, and because of that. Okay.”
Through it all, Ward has just wanted to fight. He has always wanted to be the very best he can be, and fight the best fighters he can. The stop-start nature of his recent career has frustrated no one more than him, but he believes – strongly – that he will go on to achieve all that was expected of him.
“People say, ‘You’re wasting your career’. Okay, I’ve had some delays but let’s look at the end of the story and see how it goes,” advised the 2004 Olympic champion. “I look at like a two-year rest. I know this is the beginning of the end. That end may come in three years, five years, seven years, I don’t know but retirement and legacy are things that are never at the back of my mind, they’re always at the front of my mind.
“I want to be in the ring, just like anybody else. Whether there’s been an injury or the lawsuit situation, as fortunate as they are, that’s life. I think sometimes we put champions on a pedestal and we’re like, ‘Life is perfect! Look at these guys shine!’ But there’s peaks and there’s valleys and I’m a firm believer that sometimes those valleys are more valuable than the peaks. When I couldn’t work, when I couldn’t make a living, I was in the gym with Virgil’s guys – like [Andre] Berto, like [Amir] Khan, like [Alfredo] Angulo – and they’re like, ‘Why are you in the gym?’ I’m like, ‘Man. I’m just trying to stay ready’. I know what that feels like so to be able to get back, I’ve got a different appreciation for the game. I really had to test the dedication that I say that I have. You don’t know when this [inactivity] is going to be over. Are you still going to go the gym? Are you still going to eat right? Those are the personal lessons that are going to last me a lifetime if I respond the right way. I just want to give a public service announcement: I don’t think my career is over, contrary to popular belief. The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I think that I have a lot left in the tank, and I think that the ending is going to be just the way it’s supposed to be.”