He is still a master pugilist, a ring general of the four star variety. Andre Ward showed that Saturday night in Oakland and on HBO, but he wasn't as good as he could be, in his mind. He saw things he couldn't and didn't take advantage of like he would have liked to after 12 rounds against solid Cuban Sullivan Barrera.
Thus, we fans will need to be patient and allow Ward time to get to a place he wants to be, with his body and brain and reflexes in total sync, before he agrees to take on Sergey Kovalev.
This UD12 win was Ward's first foray at 175 pounds, the neighborhood ruled by the Russian. The Oaklander, who lauded the 9,000 or so people in the Oracle Arena after his win, landed a left on the Cuban in round two which showed he has some pop at 75, with Sully hitting the mat for a mandatory eight. That super scoring blow was a left hook, when Sully was in between offense and defense and Ward threw a dart high on the head.
Ward (left, with Sully, in Stacey Verbeek photo) moved less and clinched less than we've seen and all in all, was impressive as a craftsman.
Ward went 166-463, so he was his typical judicious and consistent and accurate self. Barrera sought to impress with volume, going 111-722. He connected too often with air to sway more judge love. The tallyers saw it 117-109, 117-108 and 119-108, probably the best score.
Barrera promoter Kathy Duva told NYFIGHTS her take after.
“I think that the ring rust showed a bit. But, as Sergey said after the fight, Ward probably did not show everything in his arsenal. He won nearly every round against a game, but relatively inexperienced fighter who pushed the action throughout.”
So Ward impressed but gave himself a B minus. Asked after by Max Kellerman if he wanted Kovalev next he said he'd let the team talk about it and decide from there. Jim Lampley wondered aloud how much better he'd need to feel before taking the challenge while Roy Jones suggested more tune ups.
The vibe is that he will take another fine-tuner fight, which a contract with HBO allows, before agreeing to meet the Russian.
Interestingly, some astute analysts believe Ward will “toy” with Kovalev, though it's hard to see how Kovalev would perform worse than Barrera..unless Ward was B minus and can get to A for the Russian.
Abel Sanchez cornered Barrera and told me after how he thinks Ward would and will do versus Krusher.
“He will not be competitive against Kovalev, maybe if he had several more of these fights,” said Sanchez, “but what did impress me was his willingness to actually fight and not grapple. But in my opinion he needs several more like this one.”