When the Lucian Bute-Carl Froch fight was announced last week, one question immediately jumped to mind.
Where you at, Andre Ward?
You remember Ward, right? Super Six winner, top 168-pounder in the world, No. 6 in SI.com's pound-for-pound ratings? Just beat the bejesus out of Froch in December to stake his claim to the top of the super middleweight division?
Yeah, that Andre Ward.
Turns out, Ward has been busy. He is planning to return to the ring June 2 -- opponent TBA -- at Oracle Arena in his hometown of Oakland. The broken left hand he suffered before the fight with Froch has healed, and he is finally ready to go. His wife is expecting his fourth child, a boy, in mid-June and he wants to fight before he is born.
He's been planning for the future, too. Ward and his team have been negotiating a lucrative deal with HBO for a fall date. Showtime has the right to match any offer Ward gets, though HBO with its big budget could price them out.
Let's see, what else? He's pretty miffed at Bute. Turns out Ward and Bute were negotiating a two-fight deal before Bute signed on to face Froch. The plan, according to Ward, was to co-headline a card in Oakland in May or June before squaring off in an anticipated showdown in the fall in Las Vegas.
"I was disappointed," Ward said. "Bute and his promoter were screaming and yelling that I was ducking them, then they go and make a two-fight deal with Froch where if he loses, he takes Froch back to Canada? I didn't understand that. I was never ducking him, I just wanted to build up the fight. I was coming off two years of grueling fights and I felt he needed to fight someone. But ducking him? Come on. He wants belts, I have three belts over here if he wants to fight for a belt."
So who does Ward want to fight? Well, let's go down the list. Bernard Hopkins?
"I think Bernard has already said a fight with me doesn't interest him," Ward said. "And it doesn't interest me. Now if the fight was in demand and the networks wanted it, maybe. But I want to fight the guys that are in my era. As great as Bernard is, you beat Bernard, you don't get much credit because of his age. So he's not on my short list."
OK, what about Sergio Martinez?
"That fight interests me," Ward said. "I just don't know how far [in weight] I can get down. It's not easy to make 168 pounds but it's not extremely hard either. I don't know if I can make the right catch weight. But that's a fight fans clamor about."
Alright, so how low can you go?
"I'm not saying," Ward said with a laugh. "If I did, I would be negotiating against myself."
(For the record, I called Martinez's promoter, Lou DiBella, and asked him about a Martinez-Ward catch weight fight. He was succinct: No.)
Well, Andre, what about Anthony Dirrell, the mandatory challenger for your WBC belt?
"That's a good matchup," Ward said. "But to be perfectly honest with you I don't have a lot of interest. I consider Anthony a good fighter, a brother. But the networks won't be interested."
Ward made one thing clear in our conversation: He's a TV fighter now. He loves his belts but he is willing to give them up if a network won't buy the opponent.
"I'll be like Bernard or Floyd [Mayweather] and win them back," Ward said.
"People ask me on the street or on Twitter when I'm coming back," Ward said. "Well, I'm coming. I want Bute but I'm ready for any big fight at 168 or 175 pounds."
Well then. I guess I got my answer.