Ward The Contender

By Rich Mancuso/ Sports Editor 

Pound -for-pound Andre Ward was considered the best fighter and put a stamp on that after his second  fight and win over Sergey Kovalev that unified most of the light heavyweight title. That fight last June in Las Vegas ended in the 8th round stoppage.

The 32-0 and undefeated record is in the record books. Last year Andre Ward said goodbye to the sport he chose over baseball and he left a mark as an eventual first ballot boxing hall of famer when his eligibility comes up in four years.

“Is there really a blueprint?” Ward said about retirement. He was taking in batting practice before the Mets took the field against his Bay Area San Francisco Giants. “It’s tough, you do the best you can. At least for me,  I just knew someday it was going to end. You start listening to your body as long as I walked away fine.

Andre Ward is content for now, is financially stable, and as he says went out as that universally and recognized fighter in the world.

“I stuck with it,” he says about the career that went undefeated at 32-0 with 16 KO’s. But like any fighter that has hung up the gloves, and still young at 34-years of age, there is always that thought about returning to the ring and hearing that crowd.

Andre Ward had that popularity with boxing fans, however retirement is going well. This week in New York City, Ward was promoting his newest venture as a main principle of “The Contender” series that will relaunch on Epix Friday night.

The unknown participant gets an opportunity of a lifetime and a $250,000 contract with a live pro debut on national television. The series has kept Andre Ward busy and in another role with the sport he loves, though his fight to the top came with tough training that began with a successful amateur career,  culminating in Athens Greece at the 2004 games with an Olympic Gold Medal on the USA boxing team.

Staying in shape the last year was attributed to a major role in the upcoming release of “Creed II” that will be in theatres the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He was a heavyweight in his role and put on some weight, but this was a champion that was always in condition and ready for the next title defense that made him to most boxing experts the best pound-for-pound.

ESPN and their mega contract with Top Rank has him on the set with a nice deal as an analyst on site before and after the fights.

“Making people aware season five is here on EPIX,” he said. “ It’s been a ten year gap since last season. It’s a more updated version. It helps me in retirement being on top of the craft instead of sitting on the couch and gives me something to do.”

Before a greeting with the Mets Jose Bautista and Dominic Smith, who picked his ear about the similarities of training with boxing and baseball. Andre Ward was the boxing expert, always knew what to prepare for, had the mental advantage over his opponents. Two weeks ago when Kovalev lost the titles to Eleider Alvarez, a quick right to the temple on HBO put him on the canvas, many said that those two fights with his adversary took a toll on Kovalev.

Meeting of the Minds: Andre Ward with Mets Dominic Smith (Left) and Jose Bautista (Right)

To that he said, “I don’t want to take away anything from Alvarez. Problem is Kov made excuses and made no adjustments. Maybe took a lot out of him,” he said with a classic Andre Ward smile.

Perhaps this champion would have moved to heavyweight, as Roy Jones Jr. once did and made history as a champion.  As Andre Ward says, “I cleaned up the division.” However he is content with his new roles and you never know, fighters do retire and return.

Except he loves this new role and offering opinion about the fights and the mega bouts on the agenda.

On Terence Crawford now in the elite 147-pound division after a successful champion at 140: “He’s fought the best competition extended period of time and beat them all. Until, he’s the best pound-for pound champ. 147 division has been hot for a while but really heating up now.”

The Shawn Porter-Danny Garcia vacant WBC 147-pound title at Barclays Center, September 8:   You can’t pick a clear cut winner. It’s a great matchup.It’s even. Can’t wait for it to unfold.’

The rematch in a few weeks with Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin for the middleweight title. The first fight was controversial and the consensus was Alvarez had clearly lost that fight after 12-rounds: “People had an opinion on it. That’s my point why I can’t speak about it. Me, personally, Canelo is going to have the edge simply because he can do more  His stock went down and maybe rightfully so.”

Andre Ward was referring to the long awaited rematch that was pushed back because Alvarez was implicated with taking a steroid that showed up in solid and valid testing of blood that boxing promoters and sanctioning organizations utilize.

And let it be known, Andre Ward never used anything to have an advantage over his opponents. It was all natural just the way he talks. He hasn’t disappeared and will be seen often with the “Contender” Series and role at ESPN.

On a baseball field? Not to play, but he is crossed in between with the Giants and the surprising Oakland A’s as a resident of the Bay Area.

GARCIA READY FOR PORTER: Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter is a few weeks away and the talk has started. The Showtime telecast main event is that anticipated fight and one where styles make fights.  A hard one to pick, but Garcia is aiming for the vacant WBC welterweight title.

Garcia has adjusted a bit in his style and that means not going the distance, Alsom Garcia has used the right sooner and with more authority as compared to a good many in his previous title defenses.. His last fight in this elite 147-pound division went the knockout route with a 9th round stoppage over Brandon Rios in February.

And a win against Porter, well that could put Garcia in position to face Terence Crawford or with Erol Spence Jr. the southpaw who holds the IBF welterweight title, perhaps the elite fighter in this division.

“It will mean a lot, of you avoid the scorecard that’s always a great thing,” Garcia said this week. “You don’t even have the judges judge, so it will be great. I stopped people for the first time in their careers so it won’t be the first and it won’t be the last time I did it.”

Porter looks at the same outcome. As they say, styles makes fights.

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