Andre Ward/Photo courtesy of Roc Nation Sports
When unheralded Abner Lopez gave top-ranked junior welterweight Antonio Orozco all kinds of grief this past Saturday at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio before Orozco emerged victorious, it made one wonder if perhaps Orozco was looking past Lopez to a world-title shot that figures to come sooner rather than later.
Well, we’ll be looking at a similar situation this Saturday when Andre Ward takes on Alexander Brand, a relative unknown out of Colombia at Oracle Arena in Ward’s native Oakland (on HBO).
Ward has a Nov. 19 fight scheduled with ferocious light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev of Russia at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. A loss by Ward would mess that up, as unlikely as that would be to happen. Still, it wasn’t surprising to hear Ward’s response recently when he was asked if he had watched Kovalev’s victory over Isaac Chilemba on July 11 in Kovalev’s native Russia.
Ward’s response was telling.
“No, I did not watch it,” Ward said. “He’s not my next opponent. It is, obviously, the end game and what we’re trying to get. But I didn’t watch it. I have to compartmentalize what I have to do right now. That’s just kind of how I operate and how I stay focused. I don’t want to juggle two opponents right now. I have to focus on one guy and that’s Alexander Brand on Aug. 6.”
Ward vows he won’t take a victory over Brand (25-1, 19 KOs) for granted.
“I will not take him lightly,” said Ward, a former super middleweight champion with a record of 29-0 and 15 knockouts.. “If I’m not successful Aug. 6, there is no fight down the road with me and Kovalev, and I’m very clear that it’s not just a fight for me.”
Ward said he holds himself and his team to very high standards, so just defeating Brand is not good enough.
“I have a certain amount of pressure on myself to go out there, perform and, hopefully, look good doing it,” Ward said. “So my team has looked at it (Kovalev-Chilemba), they are doing their due diligence. But, no, I personally have not looked at it.”