In what was a tune-up fight for his November showdown against light heavyweight kingpin Sergey Kovalev, Andre Ward faced Alexander Brand of Colombia in a bout for the vacant WBO Intercontinental strap. While the selection of opponent may not have been ideal considering Brand had only campaigned at the super middleweight division prior to this fight, it was not Ward's first choice of opponent either. Ward's team attempted to secure bouts with Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Nathan Cleverly, with both declining the fight.
In his debut at the 175-weight limit, Ward faced a much bigger man in Sullivan Barrera but he was the bigger man in this fight against Brand. With the size and age differential between the two combatants, many expected Ward to walk through his opponent Brand. However, Brand proved to be just as tough of an opponent as he was when he faced current super middleweight champion Badou Jack just a few years ago. For Ward, this was only his 3rd fight in the span of three years after battling through a lengthy lawsuit and injuries.
The fight started off in typical fashion for Ward. He used his jab to gauge range, more so to the body of his opponent than the head. Brand on the other hand did not attempt to outbox Ward. He took his chances early on missing with a few wide swinging hooks in the early rounds. Ward continued to methodically prod at his opponent before opening up in the second half of the bout. While Ward is known to stay disciplined in the ring and stick to his routine, he took a few more chances unloading his left hook continuously on his opponent who seemed to have no answers for it.
Ward added a new wrinkle to his arsenal that will give his next opponent (Kovalev) something to think about and prepare for. He began working out of the southpaw stance, something not seen from him in previous bouts. Ward looked fairly comfortable fighting from the stance although you could still notice subtleties and nuances different from his orthodox stance. He pawed with the right jab more, using it as a rangefinder while still firing off straight lefts and hooks that landed at will in round 7. Ward's body attack also kept Brand at bay in the second half of the fight. In round 10, Ward continued to work out of the southpaw stance and landed his most significant blow of the fight towards the end of the round. He landed a left hook that nearly sent Brand down, however he was held up by the ropes as the bell sounded to end the round.
At the end of 12 one-sided rounds, the judges all ruled unanimously in favor of Andre Ward with a final shutout tally of 120-108 on all three cards. Ward improved to a record of 30 - 0 with the victory. HBO's Max Kellerman conducted an in-ring interview with both Ward and his next opponent Sergey Kovalev after the bout. Ward was asked after this tune-up if he felt ready to fight Kovalev. Ward replied, "I've been doing this for 22 years and if I'm not ready for this fight, I'll never be ready. I have been doing this since I was a kid. Of course I am ready". The upcoming bout between Ward and Kovalev is one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year. It should certainly live up to expectations with Kovalev being known as the "Krusher" for the amazing knockout reel he has put together over the first 30 bouts of his career. And then you have the versatile boxer in Ward, nothing fancy but extremely disciplined and methodical in his ring artistry. Whenever these two types of styles are meshed together in the ring, nothing short of greatness can be expected.