Andre Ward at heavyweight: Could SOG win a title?Written by Lee Cleveland
Last night, in perhaps the most impressive performance of his career, WBA, WBO, and IBF Light Heavyweight champion Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) scored an eighth round stoppage over elite-level opponent Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-2, 25 KOs) in a rematch of their first bout, also won by Ward.
Is Ward going to campaign at heavyweight, now?
Last year, upon learning Ward was contemplating a move to heavyweight, former cruiserweight and heavyweight belt holder David Haye told FightHype:
"I believe his skill set is second to none...he looked fantastic [against Sullivan Barrera]...He's probably pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world...if anyone can transcend the weights, I think Andre Ward can."
"Roy Jones Jr. moved up ...it's been done before..."
High praise from a solid source but... Jones defeated a tough, rugged and ploddy, 6'2" John Ruiz who was made-to-order for the former's style.
So, what is Ward thinking? Is he looking to win a heavyweight title and retire- or drop down to cruiserweight? Or is he looking to campaign full-time at heavyweight?
“It’s serious, that’s a real thing," the light heavyweight champion said last night.
"I don’t have anything on the books right now for a cruiserweight fight, a heavyweight fight. I know it sounds crazy when you’re a light heavyweight, and I’m not the biggest light heavyweight."
"I do really well against big fighters because of my stamina, and though I’m not the biggest, I’m strong. So if the right opportunity and the right fighter comes along, anything is possible. That’s not just talk, that’s real.”
So, what are his chances at heavyweight? And how would Andre fair against the giants of the division who are 6'5" and taller?
Answer: History tells us small heavyweights need mind-numbing speed or power (and preferably both) to be powerbrokers in the division.
Yes, a good little man can beat a good big man IF that little man boasts exceptional speed or power, and preferably both, a la Mike Tyson.
Andre Ward would certainly be a threat to a smaller, limited champion such as Joseph Parker. However, he would have to steer clear of the giants such as Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Wladimir Klitschko. To threaten any of those fellas, Andre would need a little more than sound technique and an advantage in speed.
Keep in mind, Ward is only 6'0" and boasts a modest 71 -72 inch reach at the moment. (Although his reach would expand as he moved up in weight).
Can you think of a post 1985 heavyweight under 6'2" who fought successfully at the elite level yet didn't have extraordinary speed or extremely heavy hands?
Ward doesn't have that jaw-dropping speed or power, and that would be a concern if I were training him.
At 5'11", Tyson was short but his speed and power, along with awesome skills, served as great equalizers. Moreover, back then top heavyweights were 6'1-6'3," smaller than today's giants.
At 5'10," Tua became a top five heavyweight in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He boasted good (but not great) speed yet had tremendous power.
Roy Jones, Jr
A 5'11" Roy Jones defeated a heavyweight titleholder in John Ruiz who was little more than a paper champion at the time. Lennox Lewis was the consensus champion.
RJ had blazing speed and the right style to defeat a much larger, more technically and athletically limited Ruiz.
And keep in mind, while Byrd was the same height as Andre Ward, the former possessed blazing speed yet still barely won one of three bouts against the Klitschkos and certainly never faced other giants on the elite level.
Perhaps the closest heavyweight comparison to Ward would be Michael Moorer who bolted from light heavyweight to win a belt at heavyweight. But even Moorer, at 6'2", was bigger than Ward and, as a light heavyweight, had superior punching power.
When he upset Evander Holyfield to win the lineal title in 1994, Moorer was 34-0, 30 KOs. He was not short on power by any stretch.
Moreover, being a southpaw certainly worked in Moorer's favor not to mention he, like a few of his contemporaries, fought at a time when the division wasn't ruled by 6'6" and 6'7" giants.
It would be difficult for Ward to compete with a polished, athletic giant boasting a strong amateur pedigree and decent speed or brooding power. Klitschko, Joshua, Wilder, Luis Ortiz and even 6’2” Alexander Povetkin would give Ward an awful lot of problems.
Nevertheless, Ward would be a formidable threat, at the very least, to someone like Joseph Parker or Fres Oquendo.
Can Andre Ward transform himself into a speed demon and/or an exceptionally heavy puncher at heavyweight?
One thing is for sure... His belief that he can compete with the best at heavyweight is indicative of his extreme confidence.
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.