Andre Ward vs Tony Bellew: The case against Ward vs StevensonWritten by Lee Cleveland
Last month, Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs), in perhaps the most impressive performance of his career, scored an eighth round stoppage over former dominant champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-2, 25 KOs) in a rematch of their first bout, also won by Ward.
With the win, Ward secured his WBA, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight title and solidified his RING Magazine ranking as the top fighter in the world pound-for-pound.
Now, Ward is faced with a next fight dilemma; Should he face WBC light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson or jaunt to heavyweight, something he's discussed for years?
As always, money will likely dictate what Ward happens next.
Should Ward immediately go to heavyweight, Tony Bellew, another fighter who made the move up from light heavyweight, is chompin' at the bit to fight him. In fact, in a recent Instagram post Bellew revealed that talks with the Ward camp are underway.
Bellew, who hails from the UK, emerged as a heavyweight contender when he stopped a presumably compromised David Haye in March and will likely win the ‘Andre Ward Sweepstakes’ over Stevenson.
There's no demand for Ward vs Stevenson. It would be a great match-up but Adonis, since capturing Championship gold by stretching Chad Dawson in one round, has seemingly fallen off the boxing map. All he's done is win but ever since hiring influential manager Al Haymon, Stevenson's stock has plummeted.
Kovalev, at least among boxing enthusiasts, was red hot prior to facing Ward. And yet, while a bunch of hardcore junkies salivated over the Ward vs Kovalev bouts, no one else cared. Ward vs Kovalev I and II generated a mere 165,000 and 125,000 PPV buys, respectively, and only 6,366 paid to watch the rematch in person.
If the historic Ward vs Kovalev match-ups didn't pique the public's interest, Ward vs Stevenson would likely underperform as well. Keep in mind, even with all the bitterness between Ward and Kovalev, those match-ups failed to sell.
Ward vs Bellew
So, what’s next?
Look for Team Ward to target a new market and try to capitalize off the momentum Tony gained from defeating Haye. Bellew is red hot in the UK right now - and beatable.
For Andre, Ward vs Bellew is a more lucrative and potentially safer fight. Tony is the perfect opponent should the pair meet at heavyweight because he is small for the division and has little heavyweight experience.
Roc Nation’s investment
Ward received a $6 million guarantee for the Kovalev rematch and his promotional company, Jay Z's Roc Nation, undoubtedly got taken to the cleaners' as a result.
"Ward has a sugar daddy [Jay Z] who pays him $7 million for this fight, OK?, " Egis Klimas, Kovalev’s manager, told BoxingScene.com prior to the rematch.
Kovalev's promoter, Kathy Duva, added via the same site:
“The other is guy is getting paid by somebody [Jay Z] who’s gonna pay him more money than [the company] is going to take in."
“He’s getting paid by one guy [Jay Z], who for some reason is willing to put out extraordinary amounts of money to watch him fight."
Rest assured, Roc Nation is looking to get the most of its investment and they can't do it by fighting Stevenson, even if the bout were to take place in front Adonis' wild fans in Quebec.
Fighting Bellew won't do a lot to increase Andre's juice among Americans but it'll give him a tremendous boost in a country that loves boxing and boasts several top heavyweights.
And should he defeat Bellew, Ward would be mainstream in the UK and his name would be mentioned in the same conversations with David Haye, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Tony Parker and Wladimir Klitschko.
The risk for Ward... If he doesn't succeed at heavyweight, it'll be very, very difficult dropping back down to light heavyweight, and there are no big names at cruiserweight.
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.