Andre Ward is not the type to dwell on the opinions of others.
Ward shrugs when he hears critics call his fighting style too safe. He never flinched when the boxing public wanted him to drop his long legal battle with his former promoter so he could return to the ring.
The former super middleweight champion always has a game plan and doesn’t care if anyone agrees with it. But there’s one belief Ward wants everyone to concur with: that he belongs atop the mythical best pound-for-pound list.
Like a devoted man on his wedding day, Ward said the words “I do” four times when asked if he cares about being regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
“This is why I do it for, and I do it for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons is to be the best and to be the best in my era, and hopefully be one of the best of all time,” Ward said.
Ward ranks fourth on Ring Magazine’s list, but the Oakland, California, native will get a chance to claim the top spot when he meets Sergey Kovalev, who is No. 2 on the same list, during the light heavyweight showdown Nov. 19 at T-Mobile Arena.
The 32-year-old Ward (30-0, 15 knockouts) doesn’t mind seeing Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Kovalev ranked ahead of him. He said they deserve it since they have been more active than him in the ring.
“That’s why Roy Jones Jr. made that song ‘Ya’ll must have forgot,’” said Ward referring to Jones’ 2002 hip-hop track. “And now it’s time to remind them. I enjoy these moments, and we have a date set to remind everyone. I will put everything on display when Nov. 19 comes.”
Ward was on his way to the top when he was cleaning out the 168-pound division. He stifled worthy opponents Carl Froch, Chad Dawson and Arthur Abraham with his methodical approach inside the ropes that led to winning the WBC and WBA belts.
Only Floyd Mayweather Jr. was regarded better than Ward after 2012. Then the legal dispute came.
Ward only fought twice in a three-year span while he and Goossen Promotions battled in courtrooms over their contract. The sides eventually decided to drop their issues for undisclosed reasons, and Ward signed with Roc Nation Sports in January 2015.
“I’m not just in this sport to make money,” Ward said. “I want to make this sport better. Part of what I went through with my whole lawsuit and fight for what is right, and all that kind of stuff, you find out those battles aren’t just for yourself, they’re also for the generation coming behind you.
“I talk to amateurs, up-and-coming guys, fighters older than me, and we compare notes to teach each other how to leave this game on top from a legacy and financial standpoint.”
Ward has taken Devin Haney under his wing and allows the rising 17-year-old prospect from Las Vegas to train at his gym in Oakland.
“Haney is like my little brother,” said Ward, the last American to win an Olympic gold medal. “I see a very bright future with him. He’ll be a champion.”
Ward is looking forward to facing the three-belt champion Kovalev for his first Las Vegas bout.
“I’m extremely excited about fighting in Vegas,” Ward said. “I’ve fought all over, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened in Vegas yet.”
Ward said the ring rust is off after defeating Sullivan Barrera in March and Alexander Brand in August during his first 175-pound fights.
“I think the biggest mistake (Kovalev’s team) did was letting me get three fights this year,” Ward said. “I feel really good right now; I feel really sharp.”
FURY VACATES BELTS
It’s been a chaotic year for Tyson Fury since upsetting Wladimir Klitschko to win the heavyweight WBA/WBO/IBF belts.
Fury was stripped of the IBF title after failing to give Klitschko an immediate rematch and vacated the WBO and WBA belts this week.
The Englishman is dealing with personal issues and has admitted to using cocaine and being out of shape.
Klitschko is in talks to face rising star Anthony Joshua, in a bout which could include all the belts.
Contact Gilbert Manzano at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0492. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.
Nov. 4: Top Rank card, Treasure Island, 6 p.m., UniMas
Nov. 5: Manny Pacquiao vs. Jessie Vargas, Thomas & Mack Center, 6 p.m., Top Rank PPV
Nov. 18: Knockout Night at the D, Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, 6 p.m., CBSSN
Nov. 19: Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev, T-Mobile Arena, 6 p.m., HBO PPV
Nov. 26: Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Nicholas Walters, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 7 p.m., HBO