Former super middleweight world champion Andre Ward has a signed contract in place to challenge light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev in the fall in one of the year's biggest fights, but he has to take care of other business first to make that showdown a reality.
Ward will face Alexander Brand in an HBO-televised bout on Aug. 6 at the Oracle Arena in Ward's hometown of Oakland, California, Roc Nation Sports announced on Tuesday.
The scheduled 12-round light heavyweight fight is Ward's final one before the Kovalev match, which is ticketed for Nov. 19 in the main event of an HBO PPV card at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ward, 32, was supposed to face Brand on Nov. 21 in Las Vegas in the co-feature of the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto middleweight world title fight. However, Ward, suffering from swelling in his knee during training camp, withdrew from the bout, which was supposed to be the first of his exclusive HBO contract.
"Andre Ward's quest to become the best light heavyweight on the planet and boxing's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter continues on Aug. 6," said David Itskowitch, COO of Boxing Roc Nation Sports. "Alexander Brand has been waiting for this fight since last year and we have no doubt he is going to enter the ring hungry for a huge victory.
"There's a lot on the line in this fight for Andre, who knows he can't look past Brand towards a much-discussed clash with unified light heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev."
When Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) returned from the knee problem to make his 175-pound debut on March 26, he did so against then-undefeated Sullivan Barrera, rather than Brand, and won a lopsided unanimous decision, 117-109 on all three scorecards.
Still intending on having one more fight in order to get used to his new weight class before facing Kovalev, Ward needed an opponent for Aug. 6 and Brand (25-1, 19 KOs) got the call when deals for preferred opponents Nathan Cleverly (29-3, 15 KOs), a former light heavyweight world titleholder from Wales, and Swedish up-and-comer Erik Skoglund (25-0, 11 KOs) did not work out.
"We can get it on, right now," Ward said of Brand. "Aug. 6th, I will be ready, so come out to Oracle Arena or tune in live on HBO. Don't miss it."
After the fight with Ward, a 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, was called off in November, Brand, 39, of Colombia, survived a first-round knockdown and won a 10-round split decision against then-unbeaten Medzhid Bektemirov on Dec. 5 in Kissimmee, Florida. Brand's only loss was an eight-round split decision in 2012 to Badou Jack, who went on to win a super middleweight world title.
"It will be a great honor to face Andre Ward on Aug. 6 and better yet in his own backyard," said Brand, who has won eight fights in a row. "Fighting somebody with such an illustrious career, facing a guy that perhaps hasn't lost a round in his entire life, is even more thrilling.
"We were set to face each other last November, but he was forced to pull out of the fight with an injury. Now the time has come to fight him and I can't wait to derail his future plans. I'll work hard to spoil them."
Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs), a 33-year-old Russia native living in Los Angeles, also has business to take care of before the Ward fight if officially on. He is scheduled to defend his three 175-pound world title belts against top-10 contender Isaac Chilemba (24-3-2, 10 KOs), 28, a native of Malawi who fights out of South Africa, on July 11 (HBO) in a homecoming fight at the DIVS Palace of Sports in Ekaterinburg, Russia.