Andre Ward is back in business. The exiled super middleweight king has returned to reclaim his throne, starting tonight with a catchweight win over Paul Smith of England, battering Smith in a tune-up bout at Oakland's Oracle Arena, stopping the underdog in round nine.
Ward (28-0, 15 KO) picked Smith apart from round one on, having no difficulty against an opponent who has often proven tough, but never would have been considered on Ward's skill level. As a first fight in 19 months, this is a solid win for Ward, 31, who was completely dominant and looked sharper and sharper as the fight wore on, and he didn't come out looking too rusty.
With Smith (35-6, 20 KO) missing the catchweight for the fight by over four pounds, he was a much larger man than Ward, and in some senses Ward did not look quite as physically strong as usual. But that may have been explained by little more than the physical size difference between the two, and Ward also had no real reason to show his strength on the inside, as he was able to dissect Smith from distance very easily.
The end came in round nine, when Smith's corner threw in the towel after a right hand from Ward.
For the entrances, Golden State Warriors superstar and NBA MVP Stephen Curry led Ward to the ring at Oracle Arena.
Now that he's back, who do you want to see Andre Ward fight at 168 pounds, where he'll head after this fight?