Its time for Andre Ward to Put Up or Shut Up.
By Hector Franco
We are less than a week away from the return of one of the finest pugilist’s of this era. He is also one of the most divisive fighters in the sport today. Andre Ward will make his official debut in the light heavyweight division against Cuban Sullivan Barrera. Before the bout was officially announced there was a division between fans debating if Ward wanted the fight with Barrera. Regardless of how long the bout took to get signed, it will be taking place. It’s time now for the fighters to do their talking in the ring rather than outside the ring. This will be the first time since June 2015 and before that, November 2013 since Ward has faced a viable opponent.
Andre Ward is a name in the sport of boxing that can easily spark debates between fans. It’s a similar divide that Ward has with the boxing media. Ward believes that he is the smartest person in any room that he goes into. The media believes he isn’t as smart as he thinks he is. For example, Ward believes that because Carl Froch defeated Lucian Bute it was always a waste of time to face him. Many in the media believe this was a wasted opportunity for Ward. Who could have been part of a big event in Canada and gotten the credit for defeating an undefeated fighter. Either way, the fight never took place and Ward along with fans moved on a long time ago.
Intriguingly enough, the bout with Sullivan Barrera gives Ward the opportunity to face a fighter that is trained by Abel Sanchez. Sanchez is also the trainer of Gennady Golovkin. Ward and Golovkin have sparked conversation in the sport between fans that is reminiscent of the Mayweather-Pacquiao debates. Barrera will be able to test Ward this weekend. Barrera is a fighter that is aware of the opportunity in front of him. If there is a point of time when Ward was vulnerable and there was a chance to defeat him, the time is now.
For Ward, the road at light heavyweight has been paved to meet Sergey Kovalev at the end. Ward must first get past Sullivan Barrera. The twitter feud between the two has been entertaining, but what happens inside the ring is what counts. Ward will be looking to return to his old form or improve upon it. There is something for Ward to prove to all of his critics, which seem to have doubled while he was on hiatus. It’s been reported by Ward and his camp that for years he has been essentially a one handed fighter. Ward required surgery on his right shoulder for years. He finally got that surgery. But it’s one thing to spar and another to get in the ring against an opponent who is trying to knock you out. Barrera will not be there to play with Ward. This is the biggest opportunity of his career and a win over Ward will bring Barrera bigger paychecks.
If Ward gets past Barrera successfully without injury there may be another interim bout made in the summer before an eventual showdown against Kovalev in the fall of 2016. This isn’t for certain as anything can happen. Either fighter could change their mind and head in another direction. Until then the question of how Ward will look at Light Heavyweight is one that can’t be answered. We won’t know until he steps into the ring. Some say Ward lacks charisma and the ability to draw a crowd. What Ward does have is the motivation to win. He is still fighting because he believes he hasn’t reached his full potential. If that’s the case then the Light heavyweight division is in trouble.
Through all the debates and back and forth accusations, Andre Ward has seen his stock drop almost every year since the Super Six tournament. The Super Six tournament ended in 2011. The Chad Dawson fight took place in 2012. These were all good to great victories for Ward, but these victories can’t be lived on forever. Andre Ward is a fighter that looks up to Floyd Mayweather Jr., as do many others in this era. Mayweather showed fighters that they could be paid for their actual value and more in boxing. People forget before Mayweather took on his persona as “Money Mayweather” he put in the work at 130 pounds. He will likely rank in the top 3 of that weight class all time. Success stories like Mayweather’s don’t come over night. No matter what you may have accomplished thus far to be on the level of Mayweather or Pacquiao it takes a lot of work. Andre Ward hasn’t put in that work to be mentioned with those two gentlemen.
This Saturday night all the talk is over. It’s time for Andre Ward to start proving that he is as good as he says he is. After Barrera may come a bout with Sergey Kovalev, the light heavyweight king. The time for debates about what will or won't happen is over. It's time for Andre Ward to put up or shut up.