Welp, Andre Ward vs Alexander Brand Saturday night on HBO didn’t do much to sell Ward vs Sergey Kovalev in the fall, but everyone probably still will watch anyway. Ward won every round with ease, but struggled to hurt the awkward, survival-oriented Brand, making for a snoozer.
On paper it was pretty obvious that this wasn’t going to tell us too much about Ward, Aging, Acclimating Light Heavyweight. It played out like that. Brand was just woeful, really, and you wonder how he once held Badou Jack to a split decision. Ward, of course, has a complete skill set, minus game-changing power, and a safety-first mentality that even when he tried to defy his instincts wasn’t enough to end Brand.
Ward did try to turn it up starting in the 4th, working the body with some vigor. He played around in the middle rounds with switching southpaw. He landed some big head shots. Brand held, slung haymakers and stayed alive. The most noteworthy thing he did was a big swing and a whiff that removed him entirely from his feet, leaving him to flop onto the mat.
So, we didn’t learn “too much” about Ward from this. What did we learn? He did look sharper this go-round than against Sullivan Barrera, but of course, Barrera’s product was a product of the Cuban system and Brand’s fighting style was a product of roofies, probably. Getting rid of the rust will be key if he’s to have a chance against Kovalev, so in a way, Brand taking him 12 rounds helped with that. Ward simply doesn’t look to have as much power as he did at 168 pounds, and that could spell trouble. He also rarely punches in combination anymore, which might be about age and increased mass.
This is one where you just shrug and say, “whatever,” and then probably plunk down the pay-per-view cash for Kovalev-Ward. It’s still a really fascinating match-up and might decide the pound-for-pound best in the sport. That’ll do.