by David P. Greisman
The timing of a media conference call for Andre Ward vs. Alexander Brand seemed fitting — it was scheduled for July 12, the day after Sergey Kovalev defended his light heavyweight titles in Russia against Isaac Chilemba.
Members of the press wanted to talk to Ward about what he may have seen from Kovalev in his decision victory over Chilemba, a bout in which Chilemba’s boxing ability had some wondering how Ward’s skills would translate come November.
Alas, Ward had nothing substantial to say about it, and for a very good reason.
“I didn’t watch it,” he said. “Obviously that’s not the next opponent. I have to compartmentalize what I got to do right now. That’s how I operate and stay focused. I don’t want to juggle two opponents right now. I literally have to focus on one guy. That’s Alexander Brand, Aug. 6. I will not take him lightly. If I’m not successfully Aug. 6, there is no fight down the road with me and Kovalev.
“Furthermore, it’s not just a fight for me. It’s very important for me to look good in that fight, to my standards and my team’s standards,” he said. “I have a certain amount of pressure on me to go out and perform and hopefully look good doing it. My team, they looked at it. They’re doing their due diligence. But I personally have not looked at it.”
While Ward is award that Chilemba took Kovalev the distance — only the fourth time Kovalev, now 30-0-1 with 26 KOs, has won by decision — he said that shouldn’t take away from who Kovalev is.
“I’m not putting any stock into what Kovalev did or didn’t do,” Ward said. “He’s still the guy that everyone said he was. And it’s unfortunate for him, being a guy who started out as a puncher, because he’s got a lot of pressure on him. When it does go the distance, everybody scratches their head and says, ‘What’s wrong with Kovalev?’ That goes with the territory. You’re not going to knock everybody out.”
Ward, 29-0 with 15 KOs, faces Brand on HBO. Kovalev-Ward is scheduled for Nov. 19 on an HBO pay-per-view.
“I have plenty of time to get ready for Kovalev,” Ward said. “That’s where you have slipups, that’s where you have upsets, that’s where you have bad performances, when you start to look ahead and say verbally I’m not looking ahead but then mentally you are. I just try to really just block it off. I’m good at doing that. Come Aug. 7, I will begin to think about Sergey Kovalev and what needs to be done to beat him and get those belts.”
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]