Light heavyweight contender Andre Ward coasted to a unanimous shutout decision victory over the slower man in Alexander Brand.
Fighting in front of a hometown crowd at the Oracle Arena in his native Oakland, California, Ward—the occasional sparring partner of the Diaz brothers—won the fight 120-108 across the three scorecards. It wasn't a hometown decision—Ward outclassed Brand throughout Saturday night's contest.
Ward's impenetrable jab had Brand in fits and neatly disguised the occasional big shot thrown from the 2004 Athens Olympic gold medallist. In the fourth round, Ward threw a neat left hook which hurt Brand. But, it was largely a boxing match which looked more like an exhibition fight, with Ward taking the liberty to switch from orthodox to southpaw and back again while nailing Brand with hooks to the body and the head with both hands. It was a glorified sparring match. Brand, meanwhile, was constantly on the retreat and did nothing but back up and clinch the better boxer.
According to the punch stats provided by CompuBox, Ward landed 39% (190 of 490) of his punches to Brand's meagre 16% (45 of 285)—landing just one of 20 punches in the penultimate 11th round. That round sums up Colombian Brand's night.
It wasn't the most fascinating fight going. In fact, it was bordering on monotonous for the 36 minutes of in-ring action. But, it was yet another smart boxing masterclass from Ward who clearly needs to face stiffer opposition to be challenged. Brand was a no-hope underdog ahead of this fight and it was clear to see why with Ward never troubled throughout the 12 rounds. This tune-up fight was reflected in the pair's respective fight purses—with Ward earning £850,000 to Brand's £30,000.
One thing has come good of Ward's win. Just two fights into his tenure at light heavyweight, Ward will next face off against Russian Sergey Kovalev on November 19th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bizarrely, this will be Ward's first ever time competing in the state of Nevada.
In one of the rare occasions where two fighters at the top of their game actually want to fight each other rather than posture in the media, both Kovalev and Ward had to successfully navigate their way through interim bouts to face off against each other despite the contract for a fight between the pair being signed months ago. This was due to said contract negotiations running well past its deadline.
Russian Kovalev did his part to make the Ward fight happen back in July, when he earned the lopsided decision victory over Malawian top-10 contender Isaac Chilemba. And with Ward's win on the weekend, the pair will fight for Kovalev's unified WBA (Undisputed), IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles later this year.
After Ward's win, Kovalev, who was watching the fight in Oakland at ringside, entered the ring to confirm their upcoming fight and the pair seemed both amicable and respectful with each other. To be fair, Ward is to be respected with a flawless 30-0 record, with 15 wins coming by way of knockout. Meanwhile, champion incumbent Kovalev has a similar, near-perfect, record of 30-0-1 with a staggering figure of 26 wins by knockout to his credit.
Speaking to HBO's Max Kellerman after the fight, Ward said: "I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it. I want to be the light heavyweight champion of the world. I had to get past this step. He had to get past his step. I'll see you in November.
"You've got to respect Sergey for the way he's gotten to where he's got. He hasn't had soft touches. He wasn't protected," said Ward. And he wasn't really pushed by the media. He's a guy who should get more credit than he has. The winner of the fight could possibly be pound-for-pound [No. 1]."
Kovalev, in typical stoic Russian fashion had fewer words to say. But, the message remains the same. "Of course, I'm ready. He's ready. I'm ready, too. I want to say let's do this Nov. 19."
This may not have the lustre or the star power seen in fights such as Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. and with good reason. But, this is one of those rare occasions where two men at the top of their respective games – both ever-present on the world pound for pound rankings – willingly fight against each other during their prime.
Confirmation of that news was certainly worth staying up for in the early hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning.