By Kirk Jackson
The plan was executed to near perfection.
In collaboration with Roc Nation Sports, Ward headlined the first ever boxing event on the BET Network.
In front of his hometown fans at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Ca, Andre Ward 28-0 (15 KO’s) continued the trend of recent Bay Area dominance in professional sports, defeating tough and rugged Paul Smith 35-6 (20 KO’s) via 9th round TKO.
Although Smith came into this bout overweight, he was overwhelmed by the skills of Ward.
Ward looked sharp, fast and even toyed with his opponent before eventually stopping Smith.
Smith landed a few eye-catching shots on rare occasion, each time only angering Ward and prompting the “Super Six” tournament winner to bring an offensive onslaught.
Victory was projected, victory was achieved, with goals of reintroducing Ward to the boxing world and increasing viewership and attention for Ward among casual boxing fans.
“BET has access to over 92 million homes,” said Ward, in an interview leading up to his fight with Smith.
“I have to take full advantage of the situation I’ve been given, appearing on ‘The View’ came about because of BET, because of announcing my fight on a BET platform, because of Whoopi Goldberg taking a liking to me, because of Roc Nation following up.”
Eliminating ring rust and regaining control of his career, is a blend of professional and personal goals for Ward.
Reclaiming position in the pound-for-pound rankings after nearly two years of inactivity, is expected and key to his brand as a fighter.
With his return bout out the way, Ward can truly start this new phase to his career.
He cannot afford long stretches of inactivity, he will have to fight more than once a year and ideally against the bigger names of the sport.
Ward has yet to headline a pay-per-view event, something he would surely like to change and is a goal Roc Nation Sports aims to help Ward accomplish.
“In my opinion a pay-per-view star is not just someone who just participates in one or two pay-per-views. A pay-per-view star is someone who can come in and command the A-side time in and time out,” said Ward.
“Out of all the guys in the last 10 or so years, it would have to be Oscar [De La Hoya] and Floyd [Mayweather] who are the only bonafide pay-per-view stars from America.”
With his last fight at the catch-weight of 172 lbs., Ward has plenty of options moving forward.
He can move back down to super middleweight (168 lbs.) where he is king. Awaiting Ward in the division, potential fights against James Degale or even a rematch with Carl Froch is a possibility.
Although a bout against Froch may be unlikely, with Froch discussing the soon apparent possibility of retirement or fighting current WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
Speaking of Golovkin, a fight featuring he and Ward is one of he most talked about match-ups in all of the sport.
There is a contrast of styles, but there is a common compliment of skills when comparing the two. A weight class and politics currently stand in the way of this match-up, but hopefully not for long.
In his post fight interview, Ward mentioned he would like to fight Golovkin.
If Ward decides to move up to light heavyweight (175 lbs.), champions Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev lie in wait and likely would welcome the challenge.
Kovalev, Golovkin and Ward share the common traits of undefeated records and all three fighters have a working relationship with HBO.
With Kovalev’s raw punching power, his wins against Jean Pascal and the aging legend Bernard Hopkins, he is steadily increasing his popularity.
Same can be said for Golovkin, who steamrolls over most opposition, but is lacking a win over a highly regarded opponent.
Because of the increasing public demand to see such fights, as we want to see the best fighting the best, there is a good chance Ward may end up fighting Kovalev or Golovkin at some point in the future.
These fighters need each other as dance partners to not only reel in the larger pay days, but to gain more acclaim and to establish themselves as the very best the sport has to offer.
As we witnessed from Ward inside the ring, the display of his blend of patience, intelligence and diversity, he will have to continue to showcase these same traits outside the ring as well.
After nearly two years away from the ring, the choice to face Paul Smith was a great choice to make.
As Ward becomes more acclimated to the ring and gradually continues to rid himself of rust, he will have to take on stiff challenges to truly test his abilities.
Photos: Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/Roc Nation Sports