By Jake Donovan

Andre Ward will face someone during the first quarter of 2016.

Whoever is the lucky candidate remains a mystery for the moment, although at least one more name has entered the mix. Discussion is ongoing for a potential clash with unbeaten light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera, while former super middleweight contender Marco Antonio Periban has also been approached to land the fight, which will air live on HBO.

A working date of March 26 is in place, presumably in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, California according to a recent social media mention from founder Michael Woods. The bout will mark his debut as a full-fledged light heavyweight, with his previous appearance – a 10th round stoppage of Paul Smith this past June – taking place at a 172 lb. catchweight in his first fight in 19 months at the time.

Periban’s team confirmed to the news of being contacted by Ward, though declined comment beyond that.

“At this time, we can reveal that, yes, we are considering an offer – both monetary and terms for the bout,” Oswaldo Kuchle of Promociones del Pueblo, Periban’s promoter informed “There’s not much else to mention, nor do we wish to negotiate through the media or reveal such terms. We are currently discussing the offer with Marco Antonio and as a team will determine the best course of action for his future.”

Plans call for Ward and Sergey Kovalev to take 1-2 interim fights each before meeting in a head-on collision towards the back end of 2016.

Kovalev –who is widely regarded as the best light heavyweight on the planet – is already penciled in for a Jan. 30 rematch with Jean Pascal, whom he stopped in eight rounds this past March. Pending a victory, plans call for the unbeaten, unified light heavyweight titlist to return by mid-year.

Ward’s path isn’t quite as clear-cut as he’s yet to secure an opponent for what will mark his first HBO appearance since Nov. ’13. His aforementioned win over Smith aired on Black Entertainment Television (BET), barely creating a ripple in drawing just over 300,000 viewers.

To date, Barrera and Periban are the two candidates that have been mentioned by name, though presumably not the only two boxers that have been contacted.

Ward and his team put out several feelers for a B-side to a planned appearance on the Pay-Per-View undercard of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’ middleweight championship winning effort over Miguel Cotto in November. An opponent appeared to have been found in Alexander Brand, only for Ward to have to withdraw from the show due to an untimely knee injury.

Brand (25-1, 19KOs) was granted an appearance on a Dec. 5 HBO Latino show, scoring a 10-round split decision win over previously unbeaten  Medzhid Bektemirov in Kissimmee, Florida. The 38-year old from Colombia has not since been mentioned as a potential candidate to land the March 26 assignment versus Ward, a 2004 Olympic Gold medalist and former World super middleweight king who has relinquished his crown in favor of a move to the light heavyweight division.

Given the names that have been mentioned both for Ward’s aborted November return as well as next spring’s hometown showcase, Barrera (17-0, 12KOs) by far represents the most respectable option.

This fact doesn’t seem to be lost on the 33-year old from Miami by way of Cuba, who is coming off of a 5th round knockout of Karo Murat in their light heavyweight title eliminator earlier this month. The bout aired live on HBO Latino, with the win earning him a crack at Kovalev once his turn comes up in the mandatory challenger rotation.

Barrer is currently mulling a $300,000 offer that – while representing by far the best payday of his career to date – may not appear as lucrative considering what he potentially gives up in taking the non-title fight. Should he decline the offer, he will have in his back pocket a guaranteed crack at Kovaelv, who will need to free up space in order to get to Ward by the fall and keep all of his titles intact in the process. The other mandatory challenger awaiting the knockout artist from Russia is Dominic Boesel, an unbeaten light heavyweight who defends a regional title on Jan. 23 an hour or so from home in Halle, Germany.

Should Boesel win and enter negotiations to face Kovalev, a potential mess could come of the current timeline in place for a Ward showdown. This would put Barrera in a prime position, either to drive up the price for his current offer – which in effect would clear him off of Kovalev’s radar – or to sit and wait for his mandated title crack.

It stands to reason that – at some point – Ward will either require an answer or move on to the next candidate on the list. That is where Periban would come into play, though a matchup that carries considerably less sex appeal. Once a super middleweight on the rise, the Mexico City native hit hard times over a four-fight winless stretch. The run began with a failed bid at a super middleweight title, dropping a close and disputed 12-round decision to Sakio Bika in their June ’13 clash.

The first loss of his career was followed three months later by a 12-round draw with Badou Jack – who has since claimed a super middleweight title – before coming up short versus J’Leon Love and James DeGale in 2014.

Three straight wins have followed, all coming in 2015. Among the lot was a six-round tune-up win over Octavio Castro in March, which serves as the lone bout of his career to come at the full light heavyweight limit, where a potential clash with Ward will take place.

Jake Donovan is the managing editor of Twitter: @JakeNDaBox