OAKLAND — Andre Ward embodied a handful of different fighters on Saturday night. Switching back and forth between orthodox and southpaw, the fighting pride of Oakland systematically broke down Alexander Brand at Oracle Arena.
The win sets up what is considered to be one of the most highly anticipated international title fights in years. Ward will take his undefeated record and former super middleweight champion title to Las Vegas in November where he’ll face current WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.
The tuneup fight on Saturday posed an interesting challenge for Ward. Instead of choosing someone who’s style is similar to Kovalev’s, Ward and his team went with the unpredictable and hard-punching Brand.
“Alexander Brand was not the top guy on my list,” Ward said after the win. “I knew he was going to be very, very awkward …. There were a few times when I was like, ‘You really think you’re gonna hit me with that? You for real?’”
Ward admitted he was hoping for a knockout, but is glad to have had the chance to get a full 12 rounds under his belt.
With chants of “Andre” and “Wardior” booming from the more than 8,000 Bay Area fans, Ward manifested a self-described “combination of Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather.”
“I can fight inside, I can get rough, I can be flashy,” Ward continued. “I can be very systematic and break a guy down.”
Constantly in the middle of the ring, Ward forced Brand to dance around the perimeter while he gradually broke him down.
Starting out by attacking his body early, Ward was able to open up some room to get to the Colombian fighter’s face. In the middle rounds, he switched over to his natural southpaw stance and made quick work of the right side of Brand’s face.
“I haven’t done that in a while,” he said of the decision to go to his left side. “It was my wife, she’s been getting on me about doing it.”
The versatility Ward displayed Saturday has become his signature. His ability to alter his approach and style depending on the matchup and the flow of the fight is his biggest asset heading into the showdown with Kovalev.
“I’m what I need to be when I need to be it,” Ward said of his style.
The gravity of the matchup with Kovalev is not lost on him.
“It’s the biggest fight in boxing, man. Hands down …. The way my brain works, he’s the only one in the division.”
Already having dominated the super middleweight division, Ward is now 3-0 as a light heavyweight and is looking to ascend to the top of the division and claim the world champion titles currently held by Kovalev.
“My motivation is to be a multi-divisional champion. I’m looking to be one of the greatest of all-time.”
“This is a career-defining fight,” Ward continued. “This is Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns all over again.”