In an interview with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, super middleweight world champion Andre Ward revealed that he's targeting a June 2 return in Oakland, but has no opponent in mind. He also stated that he wanted to fight Lucian Bute, which Bute's promoter Jean Bedard has all but laughed off in response.
Let's start with Ward's next fight. The June 2 date in Oakland should work, but it won't be against Bute, who faces Carl Froch on May 26. Nor will it be against Anthony Dirrell, it would seem. Dirrell, the brother of the more famous Andre Dirrell, is Ward's WBC mandatory. But Ward says he's not interested in that fight and would just vacate his belt, even though he called it "a good matchup." He claims that the TV networks won't be interested, which seems bizarre given that Showtime televised Dirrell's eliminator win over Renan St-Juste in December.
After immediately saying following his Super Six win in December that he wanted to take a break, Ward now seems shocked that Bute went ahead and signed a deal with Froch, the next-best option for him:
"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."
What a bizarre statement this is. Ward previously claimed that Bute needed to fight top competition, so with Ward not showing any legitimate desire for a fight, Bute went with Froch. I fail to see any problem there. As for "building up the fight," that's a load, plain and simple. That fight is as built as it's going to get. Andre Ward's not exactly packing in the fans for his fights or drawing a load of interest from the general public, and frankly he probably never will. He's not interesting enough, in or out of the ring. Maybe he's the next Bernard Hopkins, but B-Hop was never an A-side draw either. Still isn't, even though he's unquestionably headed to the Hall of Fame.
Bute's promoter Bedard took a humorous route in response. From BoxingScene.com:
"It's like he was resurrected after Easter ... after all, his nickname is 'Son Of God.' When I first read [Ward's comments], I thought it was a joke. We never had any discussions with Andre Ward. In fact, we have not heard from him since December 18... If he wanted to fight Lucian, we might have already been one week away before the fight."
I'm really having trouble seeing a valid point from Andre Ward here. He said he wanted to take a break. Fine, he did that. What was Bute supposed to do? Wait for him to get a tune-up in and fight him this fall? Was Bute supposed to take a year off? And if they both win their next fights, what will the next excuse be?