Becoming a four-division world champ and a holder of three divisional belts simultaneously is quite the feat for Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Beating– and stopping—Sergey Kovalev is also quite the feat as the naturally smaller fighter in their recent clash (and, no, the fight wasn’t “fixed” by anything other than Alvarez’s tremendous control of distance, Kovalev’s mental weakness, and a perfectly placed left-right).
There’s a ton still left to do for the 29-year-old from Guadalajara, Jalisco and plenty of options. He is, truly, cock of the walk and king of the hill in terms of high-end fighters with high-end money appeal.
And, unless he wants to throw all that away and have the boxing crown snatched from his red hair, he needs to stay far away from Andre Ward.
In the minutes, hours, and days after Canelo’s eleventh round KO of Kovalev, fans and media have tossed around the idea that Canelo, as a new possible pound-for-pound no. 1, should pursue a bout with the former pound-for-pound top dog, Ward.
It makes sense on paper, anyway.
Ward, who is 35, retired undefeated from the sport back in June of 2017 after a pair of wins over Sergey Kovalev. Claiming to no longer have anything to prove and nobody against whom he could prove anything, the Oakland native left the sport a three-belt light heavyweight champ and former two-belt super middleweight champ. Nagging injuries also played a part in the decision to hang up his gloves young, but it was still odd to see a fighter at the top of his game and at the top of his earning potential walk away without ever having even tasted really BIG money.
It seems logical that Ward would be tempted to come back against Canelo for a Canelo opponent-sized payday, which, if recent bouts set the pattern, are anywhere from $12-$15 million. Even on the low side of that payout scale, Ward would earn about twice as much as he’s ever earned in his career.
Competitively, it would also make sense for Ward to want to jump at Canelo, who is riding high and now the major player in three different weight classes. Taking on the new master should be tempting for any old master.
Jim Lampley, longtime HBO Boxing play-by-play guy and former Ward broadcasting partner at HBO, believes there’s a chance Ward may pursue a Canelo fight.
“Who, ever, stayed retired at (his) age and without having made Canelo-type money? Didn’t even make Triple-G money,” Lampley told Boxingscene. “Odds favor him seeking to come back for that.
“No booze. Stays in shape. Knee has had time to recover. Style matchup totally favors him. Shocked if he doesn’t at least bring it up.”
Ward is a principled man and someone who usually sticks to his guns when it comes to doing what he says. But who could turn away from Canelo money and a Canelo spotlight for a legacy-defining fight he’d have a very good chance of winning?
Canelo may also be tempted to reach out for a Ward fight. It would certainly be tempting, riding high on the post-Kovalev wave, to aim for the scalp of a recently-retired master.
But Alvarez needs to come back down to Earth if he starts looking to fight Ward.
Simply put, Andre Ward would mess Canelo Alvarez up.
Everything Alvarez has labored to learn and incorporate into his efforts on the road to elite-level success are things that flow naturally from Ward. The control of space and timing, the use of off-putting angles, the general footwork—these are all things Ward mastered, but things Canelo has had to mimic. Granted, Alvarez is a phenomenally hard worker with a great capacity to execute under fire and he’s learned his lessons well, but it’s still not the same as having those abilities built into his very DNA.
Ward also has the physicality and, for lack of a better term, nastiness to go along with his ability to nuance his way to shutting down opposition. Unlike Kovalev, Ward will fight Canelo like the bigger man and he will grind Canelo down to a red, freckled pulp (when not outboxing him from the outside as well).
Alvarez would be wise to explore other options, even if a ring-rusty Ward can be rushed into a bout. And, actually, there has yet to be even the whisper of interest in Ward coming from him or his team.
There’s Callum Smith at 168; maybe a third bout with Gennady Golovkin; one of the other titlists at 175, Beterbiev or Bivol; Billy Joe Saunders at 168. There’s a lot out there and he’s in position to choose whatever he wants.
But, if Ward ever does come to mind, he needs to forget the name as soon as it pops into his head.