The biggest question for Andre “SOG” (Son of God) Ward heading into his fight on June 20 against Paul “Real Gone Kid” Smith from England was whether or not he would have any ring rust. However, Ward silenced critics and ended his 18-month layoff from the ring in style by defeating Smith by way of a technical knockout at the 1:46 mark in the ninth round.
Now, the next question for the WBA Super World Champion is what's next?
"My whole career I've been the odd ball," Ward said in a post-fight press conference. "At 31, I'm not going to look like everybody else. The Bay Area, Oakland specifically, we don’t get enough respect. I’ve been an underdog my whole career. I always stay hungry.”
Ward, the only male American boxer to claim Olympic gold since 1996, once again proved to the boxing world two things: that he is ready for any and all contenders, and that he can still headline a main event fight. With the victory over Smith, Ward’s winning streak and perfect record remains intact. He is now 28-0, with 15 KOs.
Even with all of the success, there's clearly been a lingering cloud of doubt about whether Ward can be a pay-per-view superstar like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya. But maybe, just maybe, with a new promotional team behind him, the Bay Area's champ can finally fight on the grandest stage and increase his earnings in the ring.
Ward’s fight last month was his first with Jay-Z’s promotional company Roc Nation Sports, a division of Roc Nation. By signing with Roc Nation Sports, the “SOG” joins an impressive list of premier athletes, including Kevin Durant, Dez Bryant and Skylar Diggins, who are represented by the acclaimed rapper and mogul.
Ward seems to have a new sense of purpose, and it showed prior to defeating Smith. Before making his way to the ring, Ward was greeted by Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII champion running back and Oakland native Marshawn Lynch, Golden State Warriors guard and NBA MVP Stephen Curry, and the star of the upcoming movie "Apollo Creed" Michael B. Jordan.
"I’m just thankful to be back," Ward added. "I have a dynamite new team with me. I'm done talking. All I'm going to do is fight. I'm ready and available for everybody. I just need to keep winning."
During his pre-fight public workout, Smith was quoted as saying that Ward has this reputation and appearance of being a nice guy, but in the ring, he is a badass from Oakland. Every boxer who has stepped foot in the ring with Ward has indeed found this to be true. Many of Ward's adversaries have expressed just how unorthodox his boxing stance is and how hard it is to beat him, especially in Oakland.
"I got 28 fights; I've only fought seven times at home," Ward said. "I'm not going to apologize for fighting at home."
Still, if Ward expects to land the big prizefight that he and his team are seeking, perhaps it might be best if he leaves the Bay Area for Sin City because right now he is clearly a big fish in a little pond.
For many boxing fans, the mega fight they want to see is between Ward and Ring Magazine's number four ranked pound-for-pound fighter Gennady "Triple G" Golovkin. Golovkin is a force to be reckoned with in the middleweight division. He is 33-0, with 30 KOs.
Although Ward would not like having to move down in weight to fight Golovkin, he didn't rule it out.
"I can make 168," Ward said. "It's not easy making weight; it's not fun. But if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right."
Then there are fighters like Amir Khan, Carl Froch and even Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. who have all had their names thrown into the mix. It's hard to see a Khan/Ward showdown because of the weight difference and also because Virgil Hunter trains both fighters. Those wanting to see a rematch between Froch and Ward will likely have to keep dreaming because Froch recently announced his retirement from professional boxing. As for a fight between Chavez Jr. and Ward, fans will have to wait at least a little while because Chavez Jr. is scheduled to fight Marco Reyes on Saturday, July 18.
Finally, there's Mayweather Jr. But could this fight ever take place? Seeing as Money May fights Andre Berto Sept. 12, I don't see this happening either.
"It's been like pulling teeth, getting opponents in the ring," Ward said. "I don't have any rivals. I just need that right dancing partner. I might have to move to heavyweight."
University of California, Berkeley and SFSU alumni, bilingual multimedia journalist, programmer, and sports aficionado.