Andre Ward appears to believe that Caleb Plant will need to do more than simply try to outbox Canelo Alvarez in order to win their undisputed super middleweight title bout.
Nashville’s Plant, the IBF 168-pound titleholder, will face Alvarez, the division’s WBA/WBC/WBO champion, on Nov. 6 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Ward, the former two-time champion and current ESPN commentator, was recently spotted in the gym working with Plant. Neither fighter has divulged what they worked on with regards to the Alvarez fight, but in a recent interview with FightHype.com, Ward seemed to offer one possible – and somewhat surprising – strategy that was broached: bullying the bully.
Indeed, while Ward may have made a name for himself as one of the best defensive fighters of his era, he apparently does not hold fast to the idea that playing keep away in the ring for 12 rounds is always the best winning strategy. Ward, moreover, seemed to hint that for Plant, a defensively minded fighter, to be successful against Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs), he will need to rough up the Mexican on the inside on more than a few occasions.
“I’m not a believer when you face a guy that’s powerful or a guy that’s supposed to have punching power you’re [supposed to] avoid him and being perfect for 12 [rounds],” Ward told FightHype.com “Like, I don’t believe in that. Like, I like to go rattle their cage. In fact, you gotta rattle the cage. What I mean by that is that sometimes you gotta go to that power and smother it. You gotta let them know, whoever it is, hey, you can get hurt, too. And then that enables you to box and do what you need to do. So, it’s a mixture of everything. Caleb understands that. He’s a high IQ fighter.”
Ward’s own career may serve as an example of this philosophy. Against the likes of power punchers such as Sergey Kovalev, Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler to name a few, Ward often sought to manhandle them on the inside. Suffice to say, Ward, for all his defensive instincts, understood he needed to be more offensive at times in order to discourage his opponents.
“You may have your bread and butter, like, ‘hey, I’mma box,’ but I’ve never seen it work when you have a pure boxer,” Ward said. “Talking about a Pernell Whitaker or something – he’s different. He’s a rare breed. I’m talking about modern day fighters, when they don’t really have any physical strength and don’t have any power and they just think they can pick and poke for 12 rounds and not get hit. That rarely works.”
Ward, however, believes Plant (21-0, 12 KOs), who has fought at the 168-pound limit for the majority of his career, is far stronger than he has let on in his previous fights.
“Caleb is a guy that has more power than they realize,” Ward said. “I think he’s physically strong. I just think it’s always crazy until you do it. It’s easy for fans to choose — the easy pick is Canelo because of his history and everything he accomplished.
“But I’mma support Caleb, win, lose, or draw. But I think he has a great opportunity to go out there and shock the world. He just needs to put his mental on and make it happen.”