Andre Ward has a formidable task ahead of him this weekend when he challenges light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. But he walks a path rich with examples of accomplished super-middleweights making successful leaps to light-heavyweight. Recent history includes three prominent names — Joe Calzaghe, James Toney and Roy Jones Jr. After one of his last training sessions before Kovalev, I caught up with Ward to hear his strategies to take down these Hall of Famers.
46-0, (32 KOs)
Notable Wins: Chris Eubank, Robin Reid, Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr.
Ward: “Man, that’s a really, really tough fight. He’s similar to myself. One thing he and I talked about a few years ago at the boxing Hall of Fame was his competitiveness being his biggest asset. It’s the same thing with me — we just don’t want to lose. Two guys with that kind of competitiveness would have made for a tremendous fight in both of our primes.
A fighter like Calzaghe with great legs, range, [and] throws a lot of punches? They don’t seem hard but they add up. I think it’s about not trying to match him punch for punch but being accurate. Of course, I have to implement my game plan and work the body, inside and outside. You have to do a lot with Calzaghe or he’ll pick you apart. I have a lot of respect for him.”
76-10-3 (46 KOs)
Notable Wins: Michael Nunn, Iran Barkley, Mike McCallum (2X), Evander Holyfield, Vassiliy Jirov
Ward: “Oh man, that’s another monster right there! Man… I think my strategy would be similar to the way Roy [Jones] fought him: surprise attacks and speed. Sometimes, you’ll have to try to beat him at his own game on the inside. That would not be easy because he rolled and countered so well. He’s just a master on the outside and inside. He had a great jab and was taught from the old school.
What gives him a little bit of trouble is the footwork, ins and out, and the surprise attacks. Like Roy, you kind of have to jump on him before he can get started. ”
ROY JONES JR.
64-9 (46 KOs)
Notable Wins: Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Virgil Hill, Antonio Tarver, Montell Griffin, John Ruiz
Ward: “Man, that’s almost like blasphemous to me to think about how to fight and beat Roy Jones. That’s my guy right there. I love Roy, always have. To be honest, it’s hard to even wrap my brain around that one. This would probably be the toughest fight.
C’mon, the people must’ve forgot! I don’t know if we’ve ever seen somebody quite like Roy in his prime. His speed, the power — he did everything “wrong” right but was bad enough to get away with it. [Pauses] that’s a tough one.”
Andre Ward challenges WBA/WBO/IBF light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev this Saturday November 19 live on HBO pay-per-view.