Andre Ward returned from a 14-month layoff Saturday night in Ontario, Calif., showing that he remains a masterful pugilist, one who has a stranglehold on the intricacies of the sweet science.
Ward's jab was a most potent weapon against the overmatched but willing and sturdy-chinned Edwin Rodriguez. And Ward's left hook, although not a concussion inducer, sent note to Rodriguez that he would pay mightily whenever he let his left hand drop away from his cheek.
Ward (27-0, 14 KOs), the super middleweight champ, confirmed what hard-core fight fans already knew -- that there is nobody in his division who has more than a minute's chance to defeat him. So, we wonder, who could challenge Ward?
Some names that have popped up include KO cravers and titlists Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, both of whom are slated to fight on Nov. 30, against separate foes. One could surmise they would most likely meet each other in a light heavyweight showdown if both have their hands raised in two weeks.
Bernard Hopkins, the soon-to-be-49-year-old craftsman, could challenge Ward in the boxing knowledge department. But because he's aligned with promoter Golden Boy, which doesn't do work with HBO (the network has aired Ward's bouts), that matchup doesn't seem to be a viable coupling.
On social media, there seems to be a consistent call for middleweight star Gennady Golovkin, someone who can truly lay claim to the over-used nickname "Baby-Faced Assassin," if he chose to employ it, to jump from 160 to 168 to face Ward. With that in mind, I asked Golovkin's trainer, Abel Sanchez, what he thought of Ward's outing against Rodriguez.
"I would give Ward a 9.5 out of 10," said the trainer, who enjoyed Golovkin's last scrap, a TKO win over Curtis Stevens at the MSG Theater on Nov. 2. "He is who he is; he is not going to get any better. He didn't let Rodriguez bully him, and Edwin is limited, so he had no other tactics to try and get Ward. I was happy to see that Ward made more of a fight in some rounds, but he did so because he had a limited opponent in front of him."
So how would Golovkin deal with Ward if they tussled? "Gennady is a fighter with superior power, skills, strength," Sanchez said, adding with a chuckle, "and grappling ability." That crack was a reference to a knock on Ward -- that most of his bouts feature excessive wrestling, better suited to the octagon.
And, I wondered, could fans be treated to a Ward-Golovkin matchup in the near future?
"I hope so," Sanchez said. "Time will tell. Right now, they are both on top, and Andre must believe he is in a superior bargaining position, but not for long. The masses are catching on to GGG!"
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