The Changing Face of 175: Who’s Coming for Andre Ward?

By Paul Magno on August 17, 2017
The Changing Face of 175: Who’s Coming for Andre Ward?
History shows us a rapid decline in offensive powerhouses who get tamed. (Tri Nguyen)

Will the next wave of light heavyweights pull Ward from his throne or will “SOG” leave the division behind before anyone can best him?

Everything can change in a good, solid boxing year.

Around this time last year, the light heavyweight division was pretty much a two-man show with Sergey Kovalev playing king of the hill and Adonis Stevenson right below him, grasping at relevance via an increasingly tenuous claim at the lineal 175 lb. championship.

Now, Stevenson may still be at no.2, dangling by the thinnest of threads, but everything in front of second place and behind it has changed.

Andre Ward is the undisputed top light heavyweight in the world, with back-to-back wins over three-belt champ Kovalev and a shut-out of the solid Sullivan Barrera before that.

After the second slot in the division, there are a slew of new faces and names looking to remove Ward (and also Stevenson) from their top slots.

Will the next wave of light heavyweights pull Ward from his throne or will “SOG” leave the division behind before anyone can best him?

Here’s a peek at a new-look 175 lb. class and how they may stack up against the undisputed champ:

Adonis Stevenson: WBC champ Stevenson is the one holdover from the pre-Ward light heavyweight landscape. The Haitian-born Canadian is tough, talented, and in possession of a left hand that is, perhaps, the best one-punch weapon in all of boxing. Stevenson and his team, however, have shown a frustrating stubbornness when it comes to actually putting pen to paper for big, challenging fights. Up until now, every potential career-defining fight has been allowed to slip away in favor of smaller, safer challenges. It’s hard to imagine anyone on Team Stevenson being onboard for a run at someone like Ward, who has the potential to make Adonis look awful.

Nathan Cleverly: Is the Welshman, once laid out by Sergey Kovalev, in the middle of a full scale world championship comeback or did he just luck out by grabbing a lesser version of the WBA title? Either way, Cleverly is little more than a paper champion right now who will get tested, big time, in his upcoming bout with Badou Jack. If Cleverly gets past Jack, then Ward can possibly be considered. Realistically, though, Nathan is nowhere close to being in Ward’s league.

Badou Jack: The former super middleweight titlist is now campaigning full-time at 175 and has showed marked improvement over the last few years. A thrashing of Cleverly in their upcoming bout would set up a real and potentially entertaining run at Ward’s three belts.

Artur Beterbiev: On paper, Beterbiev could be the toughest challenge for Ward and if he gets by Enrico Koelling this October, he will become Ward’s IBF mandatory challenger. If Beterbiev can stay active and sharp, his power and aggression could make things real interesting for Andre.

Eleider Alvarez: The Colombia-born Canadian resident has the skills to give anyone in the division a tough time. But a fan-unfriendly style and laid back mindset could make for an ugly, dreary match-up with Ward. Luckily for all of boxing, Alvarez, as the WBC mandatory challenger, seems on a path to challenge Adonis Stevenson rather than deaden the senses of the boxing masses with a Ward chess match.

Marcus Browne: Undefeated and brimming with confidence, Browne is coming off back-to-back dominant performances against well-regarded fellow prospects. He’s ready for a move up in class. The question, though, is whether he’s ready for such a huge leap in challenging someone like Ward. The smart guess is that, no, he is not.

Sullivan Barrera: The talented Cuban boxer-puncher was made to look absolutely pedestrian in his 2016 bout with Ward. But decisive wins over Joe Smith Jr. and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy during a 3-0 run since then show that Barrera hasn’t let the one-night shutdown against “SOG” affect his game.

Oleksandr Gvozdyk: Tough and sneakily talented, the native of the Ukraine is a handful for anyone in the division. He may not be sharp enough or talented enough to handle Ward, but he could provide some interesting moments for the three-belt champ.

Joe Smith Jr.: A recent decisive scorecards loss to Sullivan Barrera has taken the steam out of a career that just featured back-to-back KO wins over Bernard Hopkins and Andrzej Fonfara. On paper, Smith wouldn’t seem to have much of a chance against someone as multi-faceted as Ward, but massive one-punch power will always keep Smith an interesting underdog.

Sergey Kovalev: Can “Krusher” come back after two ugly loses to Ward? More importantly, can he exist in a world now dominated by his two-time conqueror? The Russian still has the power and toughness to beat just about everyone not named Ward in the division, but history shows us a rapid decline in offensive powerhouses and “beasts” who get tamed so thoroughly.

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  1. David 02:30pm, 08/18/2017

    Why doesn’t Andre Ward go back down to the middleweight division and challenge GGG?

  2. Alfonso Bedoya 09:28am, 08/17/2017

    Kovalev acted like a man on fire in the lead up to Ward. Little did we know that he really was acting and in fact was resigned to getting his ass whipped to a frazzle. It would have been much better for all concerned if he fought like a man on fire and matched Ward elbow for elbow…..low blow for low blow…..better for him to DQ out than to finish sitting on the ropes with achy breaky nutz! Boxing fans could give a fuk less that Ward low blowed him out of the arena because they’ll let you know right quick that Ward did land that one big right hand which makes it all good of course.

  3. Kid Blast 08:22am, 08/17/2017

    Oleksandr Gvozdyk is the one to watch

  4. Your Name 08:21am, 08/17/2017

    Yes, the Pimpster must go

  5. Alfonso Bedoya 08:04am, 08/17/2017

    Your list is way too long and is peopled with no hopers but still you left out Bivol for some reason. Ward needs to whip Adonis’ ass….ugly or otherwise and it will more than likely be ugly as hell….for once the vast majority of fans will be pulling for him to do the deed

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