By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Andre Ward was very respectful of Bernard Hopkins following Hopkins’ historic victory Saturday night at Barclays Center.
The undefeated WBA/WBC super middleweight champion made it perfectly clear that, though, that he is open to fighting Hopkins, who is adamantly against the possibility.
“If that’s a fight that’s in demand,” Ward said, “and something that could set up both our families for a long time, then I think that’s something both of us would consider.”
The 48-year-old Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) said after defeating Tavoris Cloud (24-1, 19 KOs) for the IBF light heavyweight title that he would not fight Ward for any amount of money because he considers himself a mentor and a friend to Ward.
The Philadelphia native also said he could make 168 pounds for the right fight. A bout with Ward would be the most lucrative option for the former middleweight champion, however, and Ward would consider moving up to 175 pounds for a shot at Hopkins’ light heavyweight championship.
“That would be a great pay-per-view event and it would do a good number,” said Ward, who called the Hopkins-Cloud fight for HBO. “I think it would be a big event, but all parties have to be in and it has to make sense all the way around.”
The 29-year-old Ward wants to keep his options open as he recovers from shoulder surgery because there aren’t many attractive alternatives for him if the 2004 Olympic gold medalist remains at 168 pounds. Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) also has dismantled WBC light heavyweight title-holder Chad Dawson (31-2, 17 KOs, 2 NC), who decisively defeated Hopkins in their rematch nearly April 28 in Atlantic City, but Hopkins’ victory over Cloud has made him a more viable foe for Ward.
If Hopkins cannot be lured into fighting him, Ward understands he is in a predicament, despite his status as one of the three top pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
“I’m at a stage right now where I can’t allow myself to be penalized for beating the top guys in the 168-pound division,” Ward said. “I keep hearing people say there’s nobody to fight. That’s my team’s job, to find somebody for me to fight. I shouldn’t have to go up to [175 pounds] to get a viable opponent. Now if that’s the case, so be it. But right now, I’m a super middleweight.”
Ward wants to become a pay-per-view headliner, but he won’t be able to make that transition without an established opponent.
“There’s some up-and-coming guys, but again, I’ve got to do myself right,” Ward said. “What I mean is, I’m trying to go to the next level. We fought [on] premium-network television. We’ve done that.
“The next level is pay-per-view, trying to look for the right dancing partner. There’s not a lot of those out there, but in the meantime we need to take the right fights, not just a fight because it’s a good fight from a financial standpoint and from a career standpoint.”
Ward will continue rehabilitating his right shoulder the next several months. He’ll probably hold an open workout the week of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero welterweight title fight May 4 in Las Vegas, to show how his shoulder has improved since surgery was performed Jan. 4.
“I’m feeling good, but releasing press releases and talking about it is one thing,” Ward said. “Showing you guys is something else. That’s tentatively what we’re planning to do. I think right around that time we’ll start to seriously think about a month, an opponent and a venue.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.