Andre Ward vs. Alexander Brand: A Necessary Evil
By Hector Franco
This past Monday we saw the return to the ring of Light heavyweight king, Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1 with 26 knockouts). Kovalev took on Light heavyweight contender, Isaac Chilemba (24-4-2 with 10 knockouts). The top of the division features fighters like Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, and Andre Ward (29-0 with 15 knockouts). Ward and Kovalev are two of the best fighters pound for pound currently. This leaves the top ten at light heavyweight overlooked at times.
Despite Chilemba’s track record of always being in competitive fights, he was largely dismissed going into a fight with Sergey Kovalev. Chilemba who just last December faced off against the undefeated Eleider Alvarez, took Kovalev the full 12 rounds. He got knocked down two times but presented issues to the Russian. In the end, Kovalev won a Unanimous decision clearly against an opponent who came to win. Kovalev was tested.
Last month it was announced that Kovalev and Andre Ward had signed an agreement to meet each other in the ring this upcoming November. Ward who last stepped in the ring last March against Sullivan Barrera was looking for an opponent to face before he takes on Kovalev. Then stepped in Alexander Brand (25-1 with 19 knockouts). Fans may remember hearing the name Alexander Brand late last year. Ward was scheduled to face Brand on the Cotto-Canelo undercard last November. The fight never took place due to Ward suffering an injury causing him to withdraw from the PPV.
Brand was last seen last December on HBO Latino taking on Medzhid Bektemirov in Kissimmee, FL. Brand didn’t look particularly impressive in the bout after getting a split decision victory. He is an unorthodox fighter who could on style alone cause issues to some fighters. To face Andre Ward, Brand will be moving up from super middleweight. It seems odd that Ward and his team didn’t pick a full-fledged light heavyweight before taking on Kovalev. This, however, is nothing new in the sport of boxing. Sometimes before a big bout, there aren’t many available opponents that can be negotiated with quickly.
Fighters like Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley in the past have taken soft touches before big fights. Before taking on Oscar De La Hoya in June 2000, Mosley took on Willy Wise. De La Hoya before his rematch with Mosley in September 2003 took on a way past his prime, Yory Boy Campas. In this scenario, the destination was more important than the journey.
On the other side of the coin, there are times when a fighter may want to take on some solid opposition to test themselves before a big fight. Before taking on Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard moved up to 154-pounds and defeated Ayub Kalule for the WBA title. Sometimes this can backfire or come close to backfiring.
Pernell Whitaker almost lost his chance against Oscar De La Hoya when he faced Diosbelys Hurtado. Sweet Pea had to score a dramatic come from behind knockout to win the bout. De La Hoya himself faced off against then WBO middleweight champion, Felix Sturm, before facing the undisputed middleweight champion, Bernard Hopkins. The Golden Boy came in out of shape against Sturm and was lucky to escape with a controversial split decision victory.
In taking on Alexander Brand, it shows that the options for Ward were limited. More than half of the top light heavyweights are signed to Al Haymon. Similar to Golden Boy Promotions, Ward’s promoter RocNation hasn’t shown much interest in facing fighters associated with Haymon.
Brand may not get Ward ready for Kovalev in the sense that they fight nothing alike. Kovalev is a true light heavyweight and one of the biggest punchers in the sport. For Ward, Brand is just a bump in the road on the way to face, Sergey Kovalev. Ward will for the first time since 2009 step in the ring more than two times in one year.
This is the necessary evil in the sport of boxing. As long as Ward get’s to Kovalev the fight with Alexander Brand will be only a small chapter in Ward’s career. As far as Brand being a quality opponent to get Ward ready for Kovalev, he may not provide much of a challenge, but that falls on Ward and his team.
Greisman, D. P. (2016, July 13). Andre Ward Says Brand Wasn't Top Pick, Views him as dangerous. Retrieved July 13, 2016, from http://www.boxingscene.com/andre-ward-says-brand-top-pick-views-him-dangerous--106608
(Featured Photo: Howard Schatz)